Tony de Lautour

New Zealander, b.1965

Underworld 2

  • Purchased by the Friends of Christchurch Art Gallery, 2007
  • Acrylic on unstretched canvas
  • 2180 x 5000mm
  • 2007/005
  • 2006

Underworld 2 was painted in Tony de Lautour’s central city studio, a converted office building in pre-quake Christchurch. It was very nearly the same size as the wall on which he painted it. “It was the weirdest and most uncomfortable studio I’ve worked in, all brand new carpet and white walls that I had to cover with plastic, and surrounded by people paying huge rent to sit in those doomed-to-fail small businesses.”

De Lautour started painting in the top left corner of the canvas, and worked from left to right, down and along, gradually filling in the canvas with what looks like a mind map or a complex diagram of related forms. A giant flickering screen of digital code, perhaps, in which every line is of equal importance. He used a similar approach for several works of the time: “It seemed more factual to do it like handwriting. It also took away some of the compositional decision-making that can hinder a work.”

One of the largest paintings in the Gallery’s collection, Underworld 2 is a vast lexicon—a visual index—of the forms that have populated de Lautour’s works over the past twenty-five years. Lightning bolts, human heads, lions, empty speech bubbles, trees, mountain ranges, cobwebs, stars, smoke plumes, letters, numbers, crucifixes and dollar signs float freely in black space, a universe of symbols drawn from both ends of the visual register—from home-made tattoos to modernist abstraction by way of colonial landscapes.

De Lautour’s work has never been linear in its development, instead looping and swirling back and forth, picking up old ideas and deploying them in new contexts, reworking recent concepts in the light of earlier enquiries. Underworld 2 is like a stocktake of his pictorial inventory, humming with the energies of an immense cultural network. (Your Hotel Brain 13 May 2017 - 8 July 2018)

earlier labels about this work
  • In the role of the urban bricoleur, (collector of objects and images), Tony de Lautour gleans imagery found in comics, on the streets (such as tattoos) and advertising logos. Underworld 2 combines a myriad of haphazard symbols and shapes, seemingly painted at random. The artist’s use of dots and dashes however, serves to bring order and structure to the optically disconcerting composition. Lightning bolts, arrows, stars, speech bubbles and splices of landscape all punctuate the work and form a collective entity. Highly charged and loaded with a network of connected ciphers, this luxurious canvas causes the viewer to re-evaluate assumptions made about history, culture and contemporary society. Tony de Lautour was born in Melbourne in 1965. He graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting from the University of Canterbury, Christchurch in 1988. He has exhibited regularly throughout New Zealand since 1990, including ‘A Very Peculiar Practice’, City Gallery, Wellington, 1995; and ‘Failure?’, Next Wave Festival, Linden Gallery, Melbourne, 1996. In 1995 de Lautour received the Premier Award in the Visa Gold Art Award.

Related

Commentary
Your Hotel Brain

Your Hotel Brain

We recently opened a new collection-based exhibition, Your Hotel Brain. Curated by Lara Strongman, it focuses on the cohort of New Zealand artists who came to national – and in some cases international – prominence in the 1990s. The title of the exhibition is a phrase drawn from Don DeLillo’s epic novel, Underworld, published in 1997. It gestures towards the way that pieces of information float through your mind, checking in and out, everything demanding attention, everything happening all at once – a metaphor for postmodernism in the 1990s and for the increasing slippage of context in the digital era. The 1990s were a time of great social and cultural change in Aotearoa New Zealand, set against a broader backdrop of globalisation and the rise of digital technologies. Artists, as ever, registered these cultural shifts early. We asked a number of people who were working in the arts at the time to recall their experiences of the 1990s.

Exhibition
US V THEM: Tony de Lautour

US V THEM: Tony de Lautour

Welcome to the low brow, high art world of Tony de Lautour’s paintings, sculptures and ceramics.

Exhibition
Your Hotel Brain

Your Hotel Brain

Energies and anxieties from the threshold of the new millennium.

Exhibition
De Lautour / Greig / Hammond

De Lautour / Greig / Hammond

An exciting opportunity to see new work by leading Canterbury artists Tony de Lautour, Jason Greig and Bill Hammond

Notes
Underworld 2 by Tony de Lautour

Underworld 2 by Tony de Lautour

This article first appeared as 'Painting offers a multiverse of symbols' in The Press on 21 June 2017. 

Notes
Underworld

Underworld

Tony de Lautour's large painting Underworld 2 has taken shape in an even larger format as part of the wall of shipping containers protecting road users from rockfalls on the way out to Sumner.