The Age, July 23, 1999 Artist of the suburbs dies By GABRIELLA COSLOVICH and RAY GILL Australia's arts community was in shock last night at the death of renowned Melbourne artist Howard Arkley. Police confirmed that Arkley had died in his Oakleigh studio of a drug overdose. Arkley's wife, Alison Burton, found her husband's body about 6am yesterday. Although the couple had been together for many years, they had married only last week in Las Vegas. Arkley was best known for his vibrant, air-brushed paintings of suburbia. He had reached a peak in his 30-year career and was being celebrated on the world stage. He represented Australia at the 48th Venice Biennale of Art in June, and The Home Show is being shown at the Karyn Lovegrove Gallery in Los Angeles. All seven of Arkley's works in the exhibition were snapped up by corporate and private collectors within days of the opening. After his LA debut, Arkley and Ms Burton drove a convertible across the Mojave Desert to Las Vegas where they married. In his recent works Arkley got the measure of the Melbourne suburbs in a way that gave us permission to celebrate what for most of us had been the mundane streets we grew up in. The rigid roads and triple-fronted monotony came alive under the spell of his paint. Arkley did not demonise the suburbs, nor did he patronise them as Barry Humphries might be accused of doing. The artistic director of the Melbourne International Biennial, Juliana Engberg, said Howard's works were as exuberant as his life. ``He had a love for his subject, which was the Australian suburbs, and he conveyed it with a zest and verve few will ever match.'' Melbourne gallery director Anna Schwartz was devastated.``It's a terrible loss and a terrible waste and the world will not be the same without him.'' Dr Chris McAuliffe, an art historian at Melbourne University and a friend of Arkley, said that ``in the force of his personality and the appearance of his work'' it was easy to see Arkley simply as a brash, super-comply as a brash, super-confident character - ``but he was also a role model for young artists in the way he was very rigorous about his work''. Arkley's biographer and friend, Ashley Crawford, said it was a tragic accident that Arkley succumbed to an overdose. The artist had always despised the mythology surrounding the use of drugs by artists such as Brett Whiteley and William Burroughs. ``Drugs were an escape not a tool to create,'' Crawford said. ``Howard played it clean through Venice and the Los Angeles show and he was scared of coming back to Melbourne because of the potential drug contacts.'' Crawford was mourning Arkley's death with Ms Burton and the artist's immediate family at the couple's Oakleigh home last night. ``Everyone is in tears. We're playing Iggy Pop's Lust for Life as a perfect memento to Howard Arkley's life,'' he said. Police said there were no suspicious circumstances.