New Zealand’s mass suburban housing projects of the fifties and sixties have become a familiar backdrop to our landscape.
Jon Tootill’s latest exhibition Sweet Temptation depicts these modular designed pre-cut homes in saccharine shades of candyfloss pink, white and grey. “These paintings reflect on the 'sugar coating' of suburban life of the 50s and 60s… If I could have made these works out of marzipan I would have. That is why the pink.” (1)
Tootill grew up in suburban Hamilton where he was conscious of the artificial façade of contentment and prosperity that home ownership conveyed. “I’ve tried to recreate the falseness of it all. How everything was on the surface. People who grew up in houses like these understand.” (2)
Home ownership has increasingly become a status symbol, which for many today has become an unattainable aspiration. Tootill places his houses in the realm of dream or ideal, his heart shaped motif on the railing and garage in Sweet Temptation and the candy-cane stripes on the roofs of all four paintings allude to fairytale classics such as The Gingerbread Man or Hansel & Gretel.
Tootill’s colour planes and stylised detail unify the rows of houses. The blackened windows and bare landscape reminds the viewer that these are houses as opposed to homes. They become a factory line of mass production, illustrating the consumer society as a suburban prison.
1. Jon Tootill, Artist statement, 2005.