The art of the build: Ian Strange interrogates our ideas of home

Ian Strange has spent the last decade exploring what home means, but the New-York based Australian artist finds it hard to articulate where his home is.

"I think that's the big irony of this," he says. "I've been travelling for six, seven years maybe. I have an apartment in New York and a studio in New York and I'm there, if I'm lucky, for half the year."

He may be uncertain about his own home, but it hasn't stopped his art interrogating suburbia's darker side. Strange is known for using ordinary houses as canvases, erasing their sense of security and comfort.

He's painted an Australian red-brick house in ominous black, marked an American weatherboard with a dripping red cross, and set an abandoned house ablaze - filming the destruction in slow motion.

If post-World War II prosperity gave us an idealised image of home, defined by the picket fence and ideas of family, security and comfort, Strange's work searches for the threatening elements behind the facade, the emptiness and constraint, the uncertain promises.

"I think everyone has this sort of imagined nostalgic sense of home in them, which is a connection to place or childhood," he says.

"There is something about that stability and the rigidity of those lines in that space. I feel very uneasy about how structured and stable it appears to be when it's actually quite an unstable object."

Strange began his career as a Perth-based graffiti artist under the moniker 'Kid Zoom', relocating to New York in 2009. There, he was mentored by contemporary pop artist Ron English, gaining attention for the classical painting style he could create with a spray can.

The move to NYC got him reflecting on his suburban roots, and the distance from Perth made him wonder "what it was about that place that I always felt ill-at-ease in".

New web series on iView

This week, a new web series exploring the arc of his work, HOME: The Art of Ian Strange, launched on the iview Arts channel, part of the Arts Bites initiative by ABC Arts and Screen Australia.

"The series is really personal," says Strange. "It covers how, in the early days, it really was just making it up as we went along."

It charts his work from Home (2011), a Cockatoo Island installation that saw him rebuild his childhood house, complete with three Holden Commodores, through to his work in Detroit, Ohio, Christchurch, Fukushima, and Zloty in Poland.

A meticulous documenter, Strange says the greatest challenge in creating the documentary series was trawling through roughly 20 hard drives and 300 hours of footage.

Shadow analyses luxury of a stable home

The series coincides with his return to Australia for a new exhibition called Shadow, which will present five large photographic works, accompanied by a film analysing the iconic nature of the red-brick Australian suburban home.

"Australia and America have a shared post-war suburban idealism," explains Strange.

"In the '50s, those redbrick suburban Australian homes were this really utopian idea of suburbia: The home for everyone, the affordable house. The red-brick Australian home, which is slowly disappearing, is a symbol that contains that legacy."

While the project began as a means for Strange to probe the teen angst he felt in the Australian suburbs, taking it to GFC-affected areas such as Ohio and Detroit changed its direction.

"Seeing people still really fighting to own these homes and seeing places in Christchurch and Fukushima where homes have been ripped away from people through natural disaster or man-made disaster, you realise the way I grew up was actually a luxury; the stability of a home.

"I always felt isolated by its stability but you see a lot more people who are becoming isolated by its instability."

Which leads back to the instability in his own life, and not quite knowing where home is.

"It's actually this sort of interesting life without a base," he says. "My sense of community and home comes in a digital way. It comes through my pocket in my phone."