Tony de Lautour Untitled 2012. Acrylic on board in found frame. Reproduced courtesy of the artist and Brooke Gifford Gallery

Tony de Lautour Untitled 2012. Acrylic on board in found frame. Reproduced courtesy of the artist and Brooke Gifford Gallery

A miscellany of observable illustrations

Romantic notions of gothic leanings, the legacy of Tony Fomison, devotion to rock sub-genres and an eye to the past are familiar and sound reasons to group Tony de Lautour, Jason Greig and Bill Hammond together in one exhibition, but De Lautour / Greig / Hammond is to feature new and recent work. Could all this change? What nuances will be developed or abandoned? Will rich veins be further mined? We can only speculate and accept that even the artists concerned can't answer these questions. For the artist, every work is a new endeavour, a new beginning. What may appear to the public, the critic or the art historian as a smooth, seamless flow of images is for them an unpredictable process where the only boundaries are those that they choose to invent.

In recent years a strong shift has been readily observable in the work of Tony de Lautour. Left to history, or at least temporarily sidelined, are the cobwebs, the smoking heads, the punk kiwis and other Ed Roth Rat Fink analogies. Figurative elements have all but disappeared from his paintings, to be replaced by modernist blocks of solid colour in pastel pinks and blues. At first these simple shapes mimicked letter forms, the words they created hidden in the abstraction. More recently, similar shapes have served as elements to construct reductive forms reminiscent of the early twentieth-century abstract paintings of the Suprematists and Vorticists. Seeking to extend cubism, the Vorticists took up the modernist dictum of poet Ezra Pound to 'Make it new!' While De Lautour also strives to make it new he chooses to do so by making it old.
De Lautour has always shown a penchant for the aged. Whether it's the surface incidence of impasto and faux wood-grain or using old paintings, found pieces of wood, vintage saws or the pages of real estate publications to paint on, he often attempts, in some manner, to disrupt and interfere with the reception of the applied image. The flat painted geometric shapes that currently hold and accentuate the surface in his work are no exception, and the ground of the paintings as well as the modernist enterprise continue to be corrupted by his grunge aesthetic. Painted shapes are superimposed on spray-can backgrounds or, imitating both the aging of old master paintings and the art of the forger, a faux craquelure. Accented by cool blacks, the colour palette consists of kitchen-cupboard pastels sourced from leftover tins of stodgy paint gleaned from garage sales. Amid these interventions and self-conscious dribbles of paint the machined utopian imaginings of the early modernist mentality segue into a more immediate contemporary urgency.

Bill Hammond Proto 4 2012. Lithograph. Reproduced courtesy of the artist and Papergraphica

Bill Hammond Proto 4 2012. Lithograph. Reproduced courtesy of the artist and Papergraphica

If the past in Bill Hammond's paintings is anything to go by, the characters who inhabit it rarely stray far from their natural habitat. They are never hurried. They may occasionally visit a local pool hall, play a musical instrument or pose for a portrait, but as often as not they seem content to wait for something to turn up – even at times to the extent of taking on the appearance of wallpaper with intricate all-over decorative patterning. They rarely attempt full flight and are happy to hover or float about in an apparently weightless atmosphere. It's the quiet illusion of an extended moment where the only sound is a ticking clock; change is slow and subtle.

Long gone, it would seem, are the angst-ridden blockheads and zigzag-limbed antagonists of the early years. The sleek-bodied bird people that overtook them were long content to contemplate from treetops and shorelines a paradise lost, whereas more recently Hammond's paintings have begun to suggest a paradise regained. The inhabitants of his willow-pattern-land have discreetly grown more defined wings and become reminiscent of the angels in a Gustav Doré biblical engraving. The monochromatic green mist has been known to lift, revealing scenes tinged with a golden glow or the full colour of daylight, complete with cloud-dappled blue skies. The only lingering sombre note in Hammond's recent soundless song of summer has been the emergence of cinerary urns, and even these funereal echoes have been suitably decorated as if to distract from their contents. Along with dissolving plumes of smoke and images of a wishbone, the urns imply mortality and the hope that the breaking bone is favourable and the wish to savour each passing moment is granted. For who knows what tomorrow may bring.

Jason Greig Farewell Italica... say goodnight Gracie 2012. Monoprint. Reproducedcourtesy of the artist and Hamish McKay Gallery

Jason Greig Farewell Italica... say goodnight Gracie 2012. Monoprint. Reproduced
courtesy of the artist and Hamish McKay Gallery

Jason Greig's working method lends itself readily to the capture or cornering of shifting moods and odd thoughts. Coupled with the monoprint process, the stencil-like forms he uses to create his images act as templates that can be reworked and recycled into subtle variations on drifting themes. Like an Antipodean Edvard Munch, he visits his subjects over and over again. Greig's gallery of images can be rearranged at a whim and cast in a different light, like Giorgio Morandi's bottles, bowls and vases, or James Ensor's carnival masks and skeletons. With a simple straightening of a tie, the tilt of a hat, a touch of make-up here or there and a pat on the back, Greig ushers his players back into his carnival of souls to await their fate. Drawn from a repertoire similar to that of the silent screen actor Lon Chaney – the Man of a Thousand Faces, famous for his portrayals of such grotesques as the Hunchback of Notre Dame and the Phantom of the Opera – the faces that stare back at us from Greig's macabre melodramas are equally afflicted.

Yet of late some of Greig's images have begun to leave their claustrophobic chiaroscuro. He seems to have managed to drag himself away from Miss Havisham's wedding table, brush away the cobwebs, dust himself down and head for the door. Forms and figures have become more fully formed, perhaps even defiant, taking on a more direct poster-like appearance, with strongly defined edges, crushed blacks and saturated colour: rich reds, radiant violets and velvet greens. The shadowy figures that lurked in Greig's Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde visions appear to have been sedated and deposited in a sealed crypt. It would be unwise, however, to assign his characters to the literary past from which they may have emerged for, with Greig, we must always be prepared for the unexpected hand on the shoulder or the gruesome result of a premature burial.

---------------------------------------------------

On some level an artist's work is always a surrogate or subliminal self-portrait and when the artist's thoughts change or mood shifts usually the work follows. The colour fades or heightens, the tones darken or lighten, the focus blurs or becomes more acute – for it is seldom the subject an artist depicts that forms the image and imparts its resonance but how it is made.

Robin Neate is an artist and writer and is currently a lecturer in painting at the University of Canterbury's School of Fine Arts. De Lautour / Greig / Hammond was on display at the NG space on Madras Street from 2 February until 10 March 2013.

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De Lautour / Greig / Hammond

De Lautour / Greig / Hammond

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Here's a taster of some of their work.

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Touring Australia and New Zealand 2012–13

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Stereoscope: Kristin Hollis

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André Hemer: <del>CASS</del>

André Hemer: <del>CASS</del>

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Exhibition
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Exhibition
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Exhibition
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Our original concept, as outlined in B.165, was based around the use of one of Christchurch Art Gallery's ground-floor exhibition spaces, which we hoped to reoccupy as soon as they were no longer required as part of the City Council/CERA earthquake response. But as we are now only too aware, we won't be showing anything there any time soon.

 

Exhibition
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Exhibition
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Exhibition
Julia Morison: Meet me on the other side

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Exhibition
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Exhibition
Sara Hughes: United We Fall

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Exhibition
Matt Akehurst: You Are Here

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Pablo Picasso, Marcel Duchamp, Damien Hirst, Robert Smithson, Michelangelo... Yes, all the big names have just arrived on the Christchurch Art Gallery forecourt.

Exhibition
Julia Morison: Aibohphobia

Julia Morison: Aibohphobia

Julia Morison has turned the Gallery's squat grey bunker into a dizzying vision in dayglo green.

Exhibition
André Hemer: Things to do with paint that won't dry

André Hemer: Things to do with paint that won't dry

New Zealand artist André Hemer's colourful Worcester Boulevard intervention Things to do with paint that won't dry, appears to flow and spill down the side of the building.

Exhibition
Jae Hoon Lee: Annapurna

Jae Hoon Lee: Annapurna

An immense and oddly surreal landscape glowing out from the Springboard over Worcester Boulevard is the latest addition to the Outer Spaces programme.

Exhibition
Scott Flanagan: Do You Remember Me Like I Do?

Scott Flanagan: Do You Remember Me Like I Do?

Including a wishing well and mirror painstakingly woven from reflective black VHS tape, Scott Flanagan's latest installation considers the surprisingly elusive nature of civic memory.

Notes
The ghost of studios past

The ghost of studios past

In preparation for the next issue of Bulletin, Gallery photographer John and I have been out photographing some of the local artists who will be taking part in Rolling Maul when we reopen.

Notes
What did you just call me?

What did you just call me?

Let's talk titles. Or, if the title's a bad one, let's not.

Collection
Living Large 6
Bill Hammond Living Large 6

Pale, birdlike figures look into the distance from tall trees, like so many watchers on a ship’s mast. Behind and above the windswept waves, a Victorian gentleman-horse is seated with his whippet and double bass. Watched by an assembly of shadowy birds’ heads, he remains dignified and untroubled, appearing destined for a life of ambitious success. He seems oblivious to the impact of his presence.

(Beasts, 2015)

Exhibition
Bill Hammond: Jingle Jangle Morning

Bill Hammond: Jingle Jangle Morning

The long-awaited exhibition is a spectacular survey of more than two decades of work by one of New Zealand's leading contemporary painters.

Exhibition
Coming Home in the Dark

Coming Home in the Dark

Fourteen artists with connections to the Mainland are represented in an exhibition that explores the dark underbelly of the region's genteel appearance.

Exhibition

Canterbury Painting in the 1990s

A major exhibition celebrating the breadth and diversity of Canterbury painting between 1990 and 2000.

Article
New Zealand in the Biennale of Sydney and the Biennale of Sydney in New Zealand

New Zealand in the Biennale of Sydney and the Biennale of Sydney in New Zealand

and the Biennale of Sydney in New Zealand

Collection
Shag Pile
Bill Hammond Shag Pile

For the exhibition Wunderbox (28 November 2008 - 15 February 2009), this work was displayed with the following label.

Bill Hammond led one of the most influential tendencies in New Zealand painting of the late 1990s – Post-colonial Gothic. Shag Pile is one of his many paintings inspired by nineteenth-century campaigns to catalogue New Zealand’s dwindling native species, in particular the efforts of Walter Lowry Buller. The contradictions of Buller’s character – a recorder and chronicler of birds who killed and stuffed many – have made him a figure of fascination not only for Hammond but also for sculptor Warren Viscoe and playwright Nick Drake. In Shag Pile, Buller’s campaign plays out like a bad dream projected on the patterned walls of a claustrophobic Victorian parlour, where New Zealand spotted shags are heaped, laid out for processing, and sealed under bell jars.

Collection
Heading for the Last Roundup
Bill Hammond Heading for the Last Roundup

Turning a traditional depiction of the New Zealand landscape upside down, this vertical triptych presents a zigzagging arrangement of curtains that fall from the sky and splice the terrain, of mountainous divides that appear upon tables and strange creatures that morph and writhe.

Early works by Bill Hammond are awash with visual sampling, splicing and mixing – from popular culture and art history. Comic book narration, the oblique angles and frames of 1950s film noir and, notably, the multiple vanishing points found in the proto-surrealist paintings of Giorgio De Chirico (1888–1978), give structure to Hammond’s alternative cityscapes of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Hammond was born in Christchurch and studied at the University of Canterbury School of Fine Arts. For a period after leaving art school he designed and manufactured wooden toys. He held his first solo exhibition in 1976 and since then has exhibited regularly. His work is represented in private and public collections throughout New Zealand. Bill Hammond: Jingle Jangle Morning (20 July – 22 October 2007) is the most recent survey of Hammond’s work to date, organised by Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu.

Collection
Bill Hammond Bone Eagle A

Relief etching relating to the now extinct New Zealand eagle which has been a central theme in Hammond's work in recent years. Profile view of a human body with eagle head.

Collection
The Fall of Icarus
Bill Hammond The Fall of Icarus

In Greek mythology, Icarus flew too close to the sun, melting the wax that bound his wings and causing him to plunge into the sea. Bill Hammond uses this legend to suggest the threat posed to the natural environment by humans. Hammond’s birds look on dispassionately, their own wings emphasising the absurdity of Icarus’s fatal desire. The Fall of Icarus takes a work by Dutch artist Pieter Bruegel the Elder (c.1558) as a pivotal reference. The same compositional format – elevated viewpoint, figures in the foreground and the tiny body of the fallen Icarus disappearing into the sea – are seen in the original painting. Hammond was born in Christchurch and studied at the University of Canterbury School of Fine Arts between 1966 and 1968. In 1989 he joined a number of other New Zealand artists on an expedition to Antarctica and the Auckland Islands.’Bill Hammond: Jingle Jangle Morning’ (2007) is the most recent survey of Hammond’s work to date, organised by Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu.

Collection
A Reading from Plato
Gertrude Demain Hammond A Reading from Plato

Gertrude Demain Hammond was a prolific London illustrator who was also active in exhibiting her watercolours. A Reading from Plato was shown at the Royal Academy in London in 1903 before coming to Christchurch for the 1906–07 New Zealand International Exhibition. There it was purchased by the avid local art collector James Jamieson, who with his brother William, ran one of the city’s largest construction companies.

Following his death in 1927, James’s family presented many works of art from his collection to become part of the Robert McDougall Art Gallery’s founding collection, which at its opening in 1932 consisted of 160 paintings and sculptures.

(Treasury: A Generous Legacy 18 December 2015 – 27 November 2016)

Collection
Bill Hammond Watching for Buller. 2

Watching for Buller is part of a series of work by Bill Hammond that brings together his interests in the land, New Zealand bird-life and 19th century ornithologist Sir Walter Buller. Painted soon after a journey to the Auckland Islands, it references the extinction of native bird species – ironically, as Buller himself contributed to their demise, killing then mounting specimens in glass cases.

In this work, finely decorated birds stand in profile upon a sheer coastal landscape, anxiously awaiting Buller’s arrival. The scene hints at the ways the natural environment and its inhabitants have been exploited, destroyed and driven out.

Hammond was born in Christchurch and studied at the University of Canterbury School of Fine Arts between 1966 and 1968. For a period following his graduation he designed and manufactured wooden toys. He had his first solo exhibition in 1979 and has since exhibited widely in group and solo exhibitions. In 1989 he joined a number of other New Zealand artists on an expedition to Antarctica and the Auckland Islands. He won the James Wallace Award in 1993 and the Visa Gold Art Award in 1994.

Collection
Mr Hargraves, Discoverer Of Gold In Australia
William Macleod Mr Hargraves, Discoverer Of Gold In Australia

This print appears as 'Edward Hammond Hargraves. The discoverer of gold in Australia.' on page 740 of the 'Picturesque Atlas of Australasia.'