Over several decades Armitage’s work has shifted, grown and developed. Fine tuning technique through a combination of experimentation, planning, and practice has led him to be described as ‘one of the UK’s leading colourists.’ As with many of the Abstract Expressionists before him, inspiration and subject matter are as wide as the human condition. Life, death, passion, tragedy are all here glowing through the washes or struck across ambiguous backgrounds in fervent brush strokes of searing colour.
Diverse countries and cultures appear either in subject and figurative form or as an abstract expression simply in his use of suggestive colours and marks which evoke the feeling of a certain place or subject. Burnt reds, cadmium yellows and azure blues are utilised tautologically to conjure the baked Australian landscape, or raise the ghosts of victims of torture and abuse, portray numinous shrines and prayer flags, or affect with the depth and complexity of musical composition. A priest, a puppet, an ancient mask may at once be menacing, haunting and exultant, revived and eternalised as the shrines and landscapes through abstraction; melting into the artists timeless celebration of colour and the medium of paint itself.
David Armitage has several bodies or series of works; Victims, Shrines, Puppets and Masks as well as large scale abstract pieces. These themes continue to develop and recur as dreams sometimes do, playing within the artists subconscious. Places of pilgrimage and worship, negated of their initial religious purpose provide a powerful source of inspiration. Similarly other spiritual places and iconographies appear, in fact one could say that all his works hum with a dark and intangible beauty also found in obsolete spiritual artifices.
Other works are inspired by objects, landscapes or music; his fascination for spiritual, tribal or mythical goes beyond the obvious – momento mori, shrines and tribal art – to include intensely emotive places and the intangible and complex beauty of a musical composition.
But all of these inspirations are in the end a backdrop to or an enrichment of Armitage’s primary passion, and that is colour. The exploration of both colour and the medium of paint, which has driven many great painters since the Abstract Expressionists, is Armitage’s impetus. The relationship he has built up over time with this most primary of artistic mediums has been at times a battle of wills or a balance between mastery and acceptance that the artist is equally the slave of the medium. Planning and accident play an equal part in the creation process and Armitage has learnt to both harness and work with the physical qualities of paint, knowing when to allow it to merge, stain and drip and how and when to control and add detail.