Tony de Lautour

Aotearoa New Zealand, 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.