Smith & Singer

David Larwill 1956-2011

AUEX0010 | 30 October 2013 - 30 January 2014 | Sydney |

Sale Number: AUEX0010

David Larwill was a pioneer and leader of that generation of exuberant, larrikin neo-expressionism that emerged in Australian painting in the early 1980s.


Following studies at Prahran College of Advanced Education and Preston Institute of Technology, Larwill travelled to Europe in 1981, where he absorbed the formative influences of Jean Dubuffet and of the European CoBra movement (Karel Appel, Pierre Alechinsky, Asger Jorn et al), artists with a keen interest in ‘outsider art’: the work of children and the mentally ill, and the arts of prehistoric and tribal peoples.  These raw, direct, figurative forms of expression remained at the core of Larwill’s own work for the next 20 years.


Back home, he was a founder member of the legendary Melbourne artists' collective Roar Studios, and his style consolidated in that freewheeling Fitzroy environment of professional autonomy, of beer and dogs and of fast, fat paint.  Subsequent travel exposed him to other ‘Other’ influences: a trip to Central Australia in 1990 introduced him to the pictorial traditions of Aboriginal culture; in New York in 1992-1993 he encountered American exuberance.  Although he arrived too late to meet the fast-living, young-dying Keith Haring (whose work he knew from the 1984 Collingwood Technical College mural) and Jean-Michel Basquiat (whose neo-primitive graffiti psycho-expressionism struck a particular chord), there was still plenty to look at, from wildstyle street art to African and African-American art in museums.


Out of these varied sources, by the 1990s and early 2000s Larwill had distilled a mature personal style of what critic Jenny Brown called ‘studied spontaneity.’  His energetic, decorative funk-brut friezes of raw yet stylised figures and ideograms, their bright colours floating within liquid monochrome fields, are both elegantly decorative and entertainingly crude.  Simultaneously vulgar and elegant, savage and optimistic, David Larwill’s art is utterly unmistakable, a unique presence in Australian painting of the 1990s and 2000s.


Prolific and energetic, over a 30-year career the artist held more than 20 solo commercial exhibitions, as well as participating in numerous Roar and other group shows, in curated exhibitions, and in competitions including the Hugh Williamson, Moët & Chandon and Sulman Prizes.  In 2002 the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery staged a highly-successful successful touring retrospective: David Larwill: Stuff that Matters


David Larwill’s work is held in a number of major public collections including those of the National Gallery of Australia, the National Gallery of Victoria, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Parliament House, Canberra and Artbank, as well as in many important corporate and private collections.


Dr David Hansen
Senior Researcher, Sotheby’s Australia
October 2013


Geoffrey Smith


Australian & International Art
Melbourne  |  Sydney
T: +61 (0)3 9509 2900 or
+61 (0)2 9362 1000
E: Geoffrey Smith

Fiona Hayward

Senior Specialist

Australian & International Art
T: +61 (0)3 9509 2900
E: Fiona Hayward

Dr David Hansen

Senior Researcher | Specialist

Australian & International Art
T: +61 (0)3 9509 2900
E: Dr David Hansen

Brett Ballard


Australian & International Art
T: +61 (0)2 9362 1000
E: Brett Ballard

Harley YoungHarley Young

Specialist | Logistics Manager

Australian & International Art
T: +61 (0)3 9509 2900
E: Harley Young

30 OCTOBER 2013 TO 30 JANUARY 2014

Auction Results & Details


Sotheby's Australia | Gallery Annex
InterContinental Sydney
117 Macquarie Street, Sydney

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