David LARWILL, Adventure playground Enlarge 1 /1


Ballarat, Victoria, Australia 1956 – 2011

Adventure playground 1986 Description: diptych
Materials & Technique: paintings, oil on two canvases

Primary Insc: No inscriptions
Dimensions: 223.1 h x 405.2 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1987
Accession No: NGA 87.1.A-B
I’m thinking about working out a sensible image of what I’ve put down in front of me. Finding what I can recognize and bringing that out. The painting’s what’s important, not the thought of executing a masterpiece … the act of painting.

David Larwill1

Arresting in colour and overwhelming in size, Adventure playground is a painting which commands attention. The surface of the two canvases is treated as one flat, broad plane. A totemic figure hovers in space, a dog’s head rests on a bird’s body, and a mask-like face floats as if in a dream state. The vitality of this work is emphasised by David Larwill’s treatment of the paint: short direct brushstrokes of colour layered over each other and scraped back, revealing fragments of words and shapes. Binding this is a tight compositional structure, a limited palette and strong graphic element. It is as if the work is contained by a net of yellow paint, by black lines and strips of green. The energy of Adventure playground is one of ordered chaos, of noise and the hustle of urban living. Larwill explores a greater metaphor of being – that life is constantly evolving, a continuous adventure.

Larwill’s works of art are reflections on the adventures of life, of stories and events frozen in time. Larwill’s art became known in the early 1980s through his association with the Melbourne group Roar. This collective independently administered and funded a gallery and studio space, beginning in 1982 in Melbourne’s Green Street, Prahran and later moving to an old shoe factory in Brunswick Street, in the inner suburb of Fitzroy. Roar became a symbol of dynamism and self-determination, of energy, youth and a spirited sense of achievement which was self-consciously anti-establishment.

Over the past two decades, Larwill has continued to refine and rework his visual language - a familiar set of motifs, figures and shapes. His subject matter incorporates the everyday yet is presented in an unexpected and uncanny manner, layered with wit and whimsy.

Beatrice Gralton 2002

1David Larwill in ‘The Expressionist: David Larwill talks to Tiriel Mora’, Follow Me Gentlemen, May 1985, pp.119-22 (p.122).

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Anne Gray (ed), Australian art in the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2002