2020 Review

Well, crikey what a year!

We all wait indoors for our post to arrive – perhaps we should have brought back the pigeons to give the postie a rest! (Image from Schwanengesang)

I don’t think anything has gone to plan for anyone this year. I never would have thought back in January, when planning my big Oxford exhibition, of the dark and difficult days this year would hold.

You Green and Mourning Garlands, Winterreise

Firstly I want to say a big thank you to everyone who has continued to support the Arts this year in any way they could. And in turn I hope that us artists have been able to provide you some beauty and solace; some light in the darkness.

To everyone who has continued to work; from NHS staff, delivery workers, and teachers, to gallery owners and event organisers a huge thank you.

Detail from Aurora.

Alongside planning for my Oxford exhibition, I had two large illustration projects. Last year myself and Ronda were asked by Scholastic to create a new Lighthouse Keeper book. From the germ of an idea about ocean pollution came The Lighthouse Keeper’s Mystery, 43 years after our first book, and with a poignant message about protecting our environment.

The second project was to complete the illustrations for my third Schubert book, Die Schone Mullerin. Being in Lockdown actually provided the time to focus on this, and using the wonderful music as inspiration the images flowed out naturally. After completing the paintings, it was then the task of my great friend and graphic desinger Paul Hayes to compile and arrange them into book format, with the text from the peoms alongside.

Both books were printed just in time for my exhibition in Oxford which featured some of the original illustrations.

I feel very fortunate to have been able to continue to show my work this year. My exhibition at The Jam Factory in Oxford was pulled together within weeks thanks to a passionate team. Having been delayed and close to being cancelled, as the first lockdown lifted we all sprung into action to get the show marketed and hung. With three exhibition spaces spread across the venue, it was ideal for showcasing my wide range, from illustrations to large abstracts. The paintings shone in that wonderful space and I was very pleased to receive positive attention from the press, as well as the many visitors.

The Boiler Room at The Jam Factory, Oxford

Hot on it’s heels was Lewes Artwave. With a few Covid safety adjustments, the studio welcomed many visitors – all masked of course! But that did not stop many interesting conversations, and a few sales. (More on that below.)

Left to Right: Auto Da Fe; Initiation Figure; Azrael/Queen of the Night; Catedral, Listening to Bruckner

Lockdown 2.0 put an end to my idea of an additional studio show for Christmas, so I turned my attention online. I joined the dreaded Twitterati! And I am building up my online shop, which now has a selection of quality giclee prints, as well as my Schubert illustrated books.

Stuck indoors again! (Image from Winterreise)

Lastly a special thank you to my patrons and followers. Your support is ever appreciated, and I have happily sold many paintings this year, large and small. I hope that my work has enriched your homes (god knows we could all do with a change from staring at the same four walls!!) and lifted your spirits.

Below is a selection of the work I have sold this year which now resides in homes as close as down the road and as far away as New Zealand.

Best wishes to you all for the Holiday season and here’s to vaccines and a better 2021! I shall now be putting my feet up next to the fire with a large glass of fruity red.

A Survey Exhibition

Oxford 2020

This exhibition will now run for a full 10 weeks, from 31 July – 18 October.

This exhibition will present a full range of the artists practice, from large scale abstract paintings, to colourful illustrations. At first these may seem like disparate fields, but on closer inspection, the techniques involved inform each other, and at times interconnect; as in the Earthwatch series of paintings on paper which utilise the techniques used in his illustrative work, but resonate with the passion and vibrancy of his abstract expressionist canvasses.

Gethsemane, Dye and acrylic on canvas, 158 x 140 cm

Armitage’s abstract paintings have long been admired by patrons and critics alike, and his work has developed a rich and distinct character over decades of artistic practice. Large canvases resonate with deep rich colours, inspired by his native Australia and world travels, classical music which plays in the studio as he paints, and the abstract expressionists such as Helen Frankenthaler.

Smaller works include semi-figurative subjects and landscapes, where he distils the vibrancy of his larger works to a more domestic scale, depicting snippets of the world from everyday still lifes to the darker side of humanity and the victims of war and violence.

Warrior Rod Puppet, Dye and acrylic on canvas, 120 x 75 cm

The other main aspect of his practice is illustration, to which he brings the same mastery of colour and composition whilst embracing chance and accident. His methods combine watercolour, monoprint and ink drawing, creating a unique style that can be fun, beautiful, but never mawkish.

Winterreise 22, Mixed media on paper, 36 x 55 cm

The Lighthouse Keeper book series, written by his wife Ronda, have delighted readers for generations. The first book, the Lighthouse Keeper’s Lunch was inspired by the Beachy Head lighthouse near to their new East Sussex home in 1977. Over 40 years and many successful sequels later comes a new book; The Lighthouse Keepers Mystery. This latest installment encourages young readers to look after the sea and the animals that live there, as Mr Grinling solves the mystery of who is polluting the sea with rubbish.

Some of the original illustrations from several of the favourite books will be on display, along with exclusive pre-release copies of the new book.

Read more about the creation of The Lighthouse Keeper’s Mystery

Alongside these will be David’s own project; a set of three illustrated books inspired by the Schubert song cycles, Die Schone Mullerin, Winterreise, and Schwanengesang.

Schwanengesang / Pigeon Post, Mixed media on paper, 27 x 76 cm

Armitage’s illustrative style perfectly suits the feeling of yearning and melancholy captured in the music and poetry of all three of these works. The original illustrations will be exhibited, with books and prints also available.

Die Schone Mullerin / The Questioner, Mixed media on paper, 27 x 76 cm

David Armitage, A Survey Exhibition will run from 31 July – 18 October 2020 at The Jam Factory, 4 Hollybush Row, Oxford, OX1 1HU

A ‘Meet the Artist’ event will be held on 2 August 1- 5pm. Social distancing measures will be in place, refreshments will be available to purchase from the venue’s cafe/ bar.

Read this article about the exhibition on Ox In A Box.

Uncertain Times

Firstly I hope all of my followers are safe and well at this difficult time and I wish you all the best.

It is looking likely that my next exhibition, due to hang at the end of May will be postponed. I hope to have more definite information soon, and will keep you updated. In the meantime, here are a few paintings which I hope will be in the exhibition WHEN it happens!

Also I have a new item in my shop – my latest book Swanengesang. More on that later. Please do keep following my blog and instagram, where I shall try to give you beautiful things to look at. Art can be a great comfort and fulfillment for the soul as well as keeping the brain active, so I shall try to do my part the best way I can.

Gethsemane, Dye and acrylic on canvas, 160 x 140 cm
Transfigured Night, Dye and acrylic on canvas, 162 x 140 cm
Refugee, Mixed media on canvas, 100 x 75 cm
Illustration from Winterreise, Mixed media on paper, 36 x 55 cm
Pigeon Post, Illustration from Schwanengesang, Mixed media on paper, 27 x 76 cm
Still Life with Ginger Plant, Mixed media on canvas, 100 x 76 cm
Archipelago, Mixed media on paper, 38 x 28 cm

Past Controversies!

‘Those paintings, how they arouse people’

Back in 1973 I won a prize at the North Shore Arts Festival in Auckland. My painting was considered by some to be quite controversial at the time and it has certainly been eye opening (and perhaps shocking!) for my assistant who has been reading and copying the old newspaper clippings and articles from that time.

As yet I have been unable to locate a colour image of the painting, but the colours would be similar to those in this blog post about some other works of mine from that period, which are still in the collection at the Auckland Art Gallery Toi O Tamaki

Below are a few of those newspaper articles and clippings which I have kept in a scrap book for many years, but which my assistant insisted must see the light of day – she seemed to find it fascinating and thought others would too.

Note the wonderful composition of this photograph with the head of Festival President Ron Forbes covering the ‘offending’ area!
The article is from the North Shore Times, February 1973.

It seems I caused rather a stir, some of the opinions written in to the papers are hilarious – or infuriating – depending on your viewpoint.

This – signed ‘Not a Prude’ – is a particularly ugly example (the original clipping is rather damaged so I will quote a section):

Two ugly, course, grotesque figures, sprawled out, one in a most disgusting attitude, and not in any way pleasing to the eye…. why not paint two nice young girls (nudes, if he likes) with lovely long flowing hair, throwing a beach ball.

From the opinion s section of the North Shore Times Advertiser,
February 1973

I feel that the author of this letter has said a lot more about himself than the painting – and not in a good way!

Here is a more positive one though:

In fact there were many positive responses, and the painting was bought by Grahame Chote, collector and director of the International Art Centre, Auckland. I recently got in touch with his daughter Fran Davies who is now the director, and she was able to provide me with this image of the painting in their downstairs gallery in the early ’70’s.

Image supplied by International Art Centre, Auckland, New Zealand. 

The following article is Grahame’s response in the Auckland Star, to the controversy surrounding the painting.

And from the newsletter:

He was not the only interested party:

I would love to know who those ‘American tourists’ were! [Ed.]

However, the controversies continued:

You never would have thought I was such an enfant terrible in my youth… would you??!!

Oxford Exhibition August 2020

***UPDATE***

This exhibition will now run:

31 JULY – 18 OCTOBER

I am pleased to announce the new exhibition dates. This will be the first exhibition for the re-opening of the gallery after lockdown, and will now be an extended exhibition of more than 10 weeks.

This exhibition will feature a full range of my work, from book illustrations up to my large abstract paintings. The catalogue is now available, which you can view / download via the link below, or message me if you would like a hardcopy sent to you.

Click here for more details.

Please see the gallery website for opening times. https://www.thejamfactoryoxford.com/

Seaford Exhibition June 2019

Many thanks to all those who have already been to see my new exhibition, over in Seaford, at the brand new Studio+Gallery. Below are some shots of my paintings in situ at this lovely exhibition space. All of the paintings are relatively new, mostly created this year, and include work from both the Earth Watch series and the Still Life series.

Left to right: Orange Handbag, dye and acrylic on canvas, 100 x 76 cm; Provnece, mixed media on canvas, 30 x 30 cm; Handbag, mixed media on canvas, 30 x 30 cm; Schubert’s Bed, dye and acrylic on canvas, 100 x 76 cm.

The gallery is a beautifully renovated space, with crisp white walls and professional overhead spot lighting, which habits the ground floor of a lovely old town house in one of Seaford’s oldest streets. The scale of the space demonstrates how well my work can sit in a more domestic setting.

On the left work by Abigail Myers. One the right two pieces from my Earth Watch series: Estuary 2, and Meander, both mixed media on paper, 38 x 28 cm, and framed in a float mount frame.
Endurance, mixed media on paper, 40 x 30 cm

The float mount used to frame these works on paper, really sets them off perfectly. It’s lovely to see the naturally ruffled edges of the high quality aquarelle paper that I use for these paintings. I also love it against the rough brick wall behind!

Left: Church Window, mixed media on canvas, 30 x 30 cm; Right: Church Window 3, mixed media on canvas, 40 x 30 cm.

Two little stunners, proving you can still get all the colour, depth and interest in a small package. Even in a small space either of these would light up the room.

The exhibition is open Thursday through Sunday up to the 7th July, 11am – 5pm. There are also two artists Q&A sessions, see their website for details.

If you are interested in purchasing any of the work, please contact the gallery.

Studioplusgallery.com