Born in 1956 in Ballarat, Victoria to a farming family, Larwill turned to painting in 1980, studying at the Prahran College of Advanced Education and the Preston Institute of Technology under tutors including the influential Peter Booth and Dale Hickey. His path as an artist was shaped in 1982 by his leading role in forming Roar studios, the artist-run co-operative gallery in urban Fitzroy which included Mark Schaller, Sarah Faulkner, Jill Noble, Judi Singleton, Mike Nicholls and Stephen McCarthy. Established for the benefit of artists who found it difficult to obtain acceptance from the more traditional galleries, "The opening of Roar provoked a major reassessment of the Melbourne art scene, and was certainly one of the scene's main events in 1982." (K. McGregor, David Larwill, Sydney, 1997, p.17).
Inspiration came to Larwill from his fellow Roar artists, but perhaps most importantly from the CoBrA group, a loose association of European artists founded by Karel Appel who created raw images of great expressiveness, and who were "motivated by a belief in art as a social and political force."(Exh. Cat. http://www.hayward.org.uk/exhibitions/nte/cobra.html). Larwill's early works paid tribute to these influences through an impasto application of oil, layered thickly to create images of great intensity, usually with a focus on the human subject.
Subsequently the artist has developed a style that incorporates a wide range of imagery and references onto a single canvas. This has necessitated a more detailed and complex method of construction, resulting in canvases that display a more refined and sophisticated painting style. Larwill uses a coloured ground, subsequently blocking in his forms using white to create beautifully opalescent, even translucent, images, which nevertheless retain their immediacy and intensity. "Larwill's pictures are painted over and over, literally layered in transparent overpainting in different colours as he searches for a good image. What goes in first does not matter since his pictures are not a battle for subject matter. Rather, they express something personal and immediate about his emotional state, including, on occasions, the sense of disconnection between his thoughts, feelings and actions." (F. St John Moore in K. McGregor, op.cit., p.9)
Certainly, this unselfconscious expressiveness is apparent in What a Month. Larwill takes his emblematic approach and infuses it with a buoyancy and vigour that draw the viewer's eye across the canvas in a rhythmic, almost musical cacophony of colour and imagery. As the title implies, What a Month compresses the multitude of experiences in a period of the artist's life onto the canvas, expressed in a way that resonates intuitively with the viewer. As the artist himself has commented, "it's an instinctual process. I think the popularity of my work might have something to do with that. It's not rational but it seems to work." (S. Prior "Stuff that Matters" in David Larwill, exh. cat., Ballarat Fine Art Gallery, Ballarat, 2002, p.35)