Menzies Art Brands



David Larwills oeuvre rests on a self-created mythology of simplicity, friendship and adventure, and, occasionally swerves into the realms of social and political statements. Throughout his prodigious but short career, cut tragically short by lung cancer, the artist kept his message short and simple, it must be from the heart.1 His stance was always against  conceptualism in any forms and, as a founder of the Melbournes Roar Studios, creating art for the love of it was Larwills manifesto. Larwill was part of a new generation of painters who emerged from art schools in the 1980s fuelled by a love of paint and joie de vivre. Extravagant use of oil paint, figuration, expressive handling and use of large formats were the hallmarks of this new style. Internationally, this concept was being embraced simultaneously in reaction to the sterility of 1970s minimalism.

 It is not surprising that Larwills early influences were Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890), Jean Dubuffet (1901-1988) and the Australian painter, Peter Booth (born 1940) who pioneered this new, figurative style in the late 1970s. Spontaneity and irreverence are present in equal parts in Larwills art, along with a good dose of primary colours, primitive drawing and humour. Typical of Larwills painting in the 1980s are recognisable snatches from the vocabulary of other artists. The puppet-like creatures and masks derive ultimately from Dubuffet, together with Larwills flat all over, zoo-cage structure.2 In the present work, created around the height of the Roar movement in 1987, these qualities are assuredly on display. The composition is a jumble of figures, creatures, trees and houses, a kind of organised chaos that Larwill cleverly orchestrates. Bright, bold colours and shapes emerge from a white background, emphasising the powerful effect of the artists palette. The artist would discard convention by building up layers of wet paint which resulted in the works heavily textured surfaces a characteristic of many of the Roar Studios artists work. In all of his paintings, the artists gaze is uncritical, Larwill was simply an observer of people and the adventures that life takes them on.

Towards the end of the 1980s, Larwills artistic integrity was being recognised; he had been invited to exhibit in a major National Gallery of Victoria survey of contemporary art, Vox Pop, which saw the artists career shifting towards critical acknowledgment and commercial success. Soon after came art prizes, solo and group exhibitions with leading commercial galleries across the country and collectors vying for his work on the primary and secondary market. Despite the success he found in the commercial realm, Larwill maintained his original intention of painting from the heart. The artist often faced accusations that his art was slow to develop and repetitive however Larwill dismissed these claims, believing that art is long, its not something that you look at from one week to the next you look at it the whole timeits about coming from somewhere and going somewhere else.3

At the time of his premature death in 2011, David Larwill had established himself as a leading artist of his generation, a veteran with numerous solo and group shows in Australia and overseas, in addition he was the subject of a major retrospective which toured Australia in 2002. Larwill consistently worked with exuberance and energy and developed a wide-ranging audience across Australia and overseas.


1. David Larwill cited in Crawford, A., David Larwill: The Goblin Force, Art & Australia, 2001, vol.38, no.2, p.266
2. Felicity St John Moore, cited in McGregor, K., David Larwill, Craftsman House, Sydney, 1997, p.8
3. David Larwill cited in Crawford, A., David Larwill: The Goblin Force, Art & Australia, 2001, vol.38, no.2, p.266

Caroline Jones MArtAdmin

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