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Abstract & Expressionistic Colour works


1978 - 1980s

Loose Strips of Canvas


1989 - 1991

Transition From Canvas to Board


1992 - 2003

3-D Aluminium Figures


2003 - Present

3D Spaces Out Of A Flat Canvas



Mike Armstrong - Wall Hanging



1977 Armstrong’s early paintings were abstract and expressionistic colour works. During this period Armstrong was influenced by his tutor Rudolf Gopas and the New York School of expressionists,  Jackson Pollock et al. Expressionism was a dominant current in New Zealand painting at the time.



1978- 1980s Armstrong moved up to Northland in 1978 and then to Wellington in 1979. He started painting on loose canvases and exploring ideas around loose strips of canvas. Working against the limitation of the flat canvas, and pushing the boundaries between painting and sculpture the canvas was cut up, and sewn. Described as “convention reversal” (the canvas being painted on both sides) elements of painting and sculpture competed in individual works.


Armstrong writes:


“I experimented with folding the canvases over itself and sewing it up, and then with sewing on flaps, cutting and sewing shapes and then, by 1980, cutting and sewing long curved shapes, ribbon-like calligraphic pieces, that looped over themselves.
This format also meant that both sides needed painting. The ways of hanging the canvases became infinitely variable – canvas strips pinned to the wall could be placed either way around.
There was aesthetic to start with, the drawing of the calligraphic shapes combined both form and colour, but depending upon who hung them, other aesthetics could be applied to their hanging.”


These loose canvases had no support and the physical act of hanging involved a direct engagement with the work. The forms were organic and could be turned into various shapes depending on how they were hung.

Armstrong writes:


“I had become interested in concepts around the painting of figures and about representation…. I was already familiar with Frank Stella’s work (US), and also the work of Tony Bevan (UK).

My paintings had to change to accommodate more conventional imagery – ultimately the figurative imagery became sculptural and led from canvas, to board and then to aluminium, thus, from 1986 until 2003 this concept was developed."


In 1984 Armstrong was awarded the prestigious Frances Hodgkins Fellowship.


On a trip to Australia during the same year he saw the work of Annette Messager (France). During this period Armstrong’s own work was becoming more figurative, while continuing to work with loose canvases there was a definite shift to a more detailed iconography.


1989-1991 A transition from canvas to board. Armstrong’s plywood shapes were cut out and constructed, with raised sculptural forms lifting from the flat surface.


Mike Armstrong - Sculpture1992-2003 This ongoing tension between painting and sculpture lead ultimately to Armstrong’s 3-D aluminium figures. Made of thin aluminium strips, cut and riveted with paint sprayed and brushed onto the surface. These configurations twist and contort in to alien life forms and constantly seem to metamorphos into new organic shapes — that can hint at something human yet tortured.

Sally Blundell

writing in the Listener (Feb 7 2004) described these works as:

“constructed pigment rather than sculpture”.
Mike Armstrong - Sculpture
Mike Armstrong - Sculpture



2003-present Armstrong writes: “From 2003 my work was altered again, even more figuration, within conventional easel painting formats or loose canvases.

Armstrong writes:


“Postmodernism allows me, as a painter, to combine many ideas and styles into a work. The surface is worked and reworked with ideas and images, a tabula rasa of the personal and of the art historical, overlaid with and amalgamated with the contemporary to create new meanings….
In these paintings my intention is to integrate many of the elements of my past work into one frame. This involves the excavation and reconstruction of the styles and images used in my art making and the references those make to contemporary practice and art historical models. It is the language of painting, reflecting on itself.”

These newer works are sparser and stylistically post-modern.” Armstrong has turned his own original concept on its head: from scuptural 3D works in tension with the flat surface of a wall he is now conjuring 3D spaces out of a flat canvas.

Structured through collage and strongly symbolic the multi-layered arrangements can range in reference from the anthropomorphic to elements of cartoon.

Mike Armstrong - New Corporate Logo