David Armitage is widely acknowledged as one of the most original, exciting and inspirational abstract artists of his generation, writes Jean Clark.
His paintings are housed in private collections and galleries across the world but from Saturday (March 28), visitors to the Birley Centre can see Armitage’s vibrant, large-scale colourful canvases in a month-long retrospective of his work.
Inspired by his early life in Tasmania and the Pacific Ocean, the paintings in A Decade of Colour reflect a kaleidoscopic range of preoccupations and fascinations: haunting music of Anton Bruckner and Sibelius; dark ambiguity of prayer flags and shrines; ethereal beauty of Monet’s water garden at Giverny. All different subjects, yet all overwhelmingly about one thing - colour.
His love of art began as a child, ‘sitting on my bedroom floor surrounded by pens, crayons and paper,’ he says.
“To make images and discover the joy of colour was to enter a magical world. I was pretty hopeless, but I was passionate and that passion has never dimmed,” he explained.
After studying illustration and life drawing in Melbourne, Armitage worked in the theatre, painting the stage sets that would give him a life-long love of dramatic, large-scale works.
His versatility will be confirmed at the Birley when a selection of his illustrations - he and his wife Ronda collaborated on the highly-successful series of Lighthouse Keeper children’s books – drawings and smaller, still-life paintings and prints will also be on display.
A Decade of Colour is, for Armitage, ‘a coming of age, a realisation of what I’ve been toiling away to achieve. I don’t have another magic wand.’
David Armitage - A Decade of Colour, Birley Centre, Eastbourne College, Carlise Road, BN21 4EF, Saturdays and Sundays March 28–April 26, 10am-4pm; also Good Friday and Bank Holiday Monday. Free admission.