Oil on Board
916 x 916mm
This early work comes from a period when Killeen was interested, like many of his contemporaries, in giving critical expression to the suburban monotony which enveloped many people’s lives as New Zealand’s cities grew. It is not surprising that these works coincide with the first stirrings of the Women’s Movement in New Zealand and the growing awareness of what at the time was called “suburban neurosis”. Many will recall a popular song of the time about people who look the same and live in the same little boxes.
In this work a dead man lies unnoticed on the floor as if about to be stepped over by a group of uncaring suburban partygoers. Like cardboard cut-outs Killeen’s figures do not seem fully fleshed and their hands are folded or awkwardly clasped behind their backs as if purely for reasons of compositional symmetry. The faces of these figures are entirely vacuous and bear uncanny similarities. They are in an existential limbo like the people in the theological limbo who feel no pain and whose bodies coexist between hell and salvation in a state of divine abandon and sensory deprivation. Suburbia is the limbo of the late 20th century.
This work was first exhibited by Barry Lett Galleries in 1970 but was retained by the artist. In 1994 the Wellington dealer Peter McLeavey encouraged Killeen to show the remaining works from the series again in a show entitled Dead Woman, Dead Man.