This article first appeared as 'Painting offers a multiverse of symbols' in The Press on 21 June 2017.
US V THEM: Tony de Lautour
Welcome to the low brow, high art world of Tony de Lautour’s paintings, sculptures and ceramics.
From a distance, these ten works by Shane Cotton have a strongly graphic quality. They look like a row of archery targets, or a series of pulsing GPS locator beacons zeroing in on a significant location. But when you get up close, the surfaces of Cotton’s circular forms appear softly weathered, as if the pressure of the world around them has worn them away slightly. You become aware of the small painted motifs within the concentric circles—heads, texts, bars, dots, smaller targets, ancient presences. And suddenly, rather than looking like something that belongs to space, like the trajectory of an arrow or the flight plan of a plane, you see that the works might equally be concerned with time, that the bands of colour might be read as the rings of a tree or as a model of eternal return.
The works themselves took several years to make. In 2009, Cotton spent a couple of weeks in Israel working with the Gottesman Etching Center to produce the circular forms. (The colours are drawn from the Israeli and Palestinian national flags, as well as the tino rangatiratanga flag and Cotton’s impressions of the landscape.) They’re monoprints, which means they exist as single images pulled from the printing press—essentially, they’re printed paintings. When Cotton got back to New Zealand, he put the sheets away for three years, finally adding the smaller motifs over the etched surface by hand.
The heads in the images are toi moko, or mokomokai, preserved and tattooed Māori heads. Cotton has worked for many years now from a copy of a photograph of Horatio Gordon Robley, a colonial soldier and artist who fought in the New Zealand wars, with his collection of heads displayed on a wall behind him. It’s a horrific image, a deeply shocking one. “I wanted to see whether I could take a heavily laden image from our history and say something different with it. […] I think they’re really about what it means to have and hold on to a memory or retain a likeness, which is also what painting was historically about. So I thought I’d start painting them and see what happened.”
(Your Hotel Brain 13 May 2017 - 8 July 2018)
The Gallery has an incredible team of forty Volunteer Guides – and we want more! We’re currently seeking expressions of interest for ten enthusiastic individuals to join us.
My main base is in Vienna although I’ve lived a reasonably nomadic life for quite some time now. The last time that I lived in New Zealand was back in 2011, and I left just a few days after the earthquake to start a PhD in Sydney. After four years in Australia I did a couple of residencies in Paris and Italy before moving to Vienna.
In early March we were lucky enough to have the incredibly talented Grayson Gilmour performing at the Gallery, supported by the equally talented Purple Pilgrims and New Dawn. I love these gigs, but there is a lot of work to be done behind the scenes to make sure that, by the time the public walk in the door, the foyer is gig ready. The process normally feels like a long, slow marathon with a sprint at the final corner. So here’s a guide to how you too can get the NZI Foyer gig-ready in five (or six) easy steps.
Pickaxes and Shovels
See the lives of the early settlers and Kāi Tahu tangata whenua in this selection of extraordinary works by frontier Pākehā artists.