Tony de Lautour

Aotearoa New Zealand, b.1965

Secure Inventory

  • 1997
  • Oil on canvas
  • Purchased, 1998
  • 1828 x 1523mm
  • 98/94

Tony de Lautour’s works of the 1990s are a riot: a disorderly assembly of images and symbols jostling for attention. Beer-swilling, pot-bellied kiwis square up against mangy chain-smoking lions in a savage parody of New Zealand’s modern history, recasting the decade’s official narratives of national identity as a dispiritingly sweaty, low-rent struggle.

The inventory of the title refers to the collection of graphic devices drawn from comics, tattoo art and heraldic imagery that de Lautour used in many works of the time—and which occasionally continue to make an appearance in his paintings. He comments: “It is not really a secure inventory, both in the sense that new images fade in and out of my work and also that the composition is precarious, stacked, pressed together, held in place by cobwebs.” The blue palette originated from the home-made and prison tattoos that he was using for source material. “Sometimes the blue became mixed or overpainted with white, which eventually resulted in powder blue entering the palette that I still use now.”

The 1990s, de Lautour says, were a time when artists were becoming increasingly aware of the proliferation of images which the internet heralded, and the way that disparate imagery from different times and places was beginning to be pushed together and to recirculate free of its original context. “I do see it all as a continuation of a history starting from cubist collage, dada and photomontage. I also thought a lot about the way individual images could lose power as we became more overloaded with them.

“There was also the constant talk about painting being dead. At the time it felt to me that it if was dead you could do anything you wanted, because it didn’t matter. I suppose painting is even deader these days.”

(Your Hotel Brain 13 May 2017 - 8 July 2018)

Exhibition History

earlier labels about this work
  • Despite its title, this scene is anything but secure – it threatens to break apart into anarchy and violence at any moment.

    Oil paint may be the traditional medium of fine art but Christchurch artist Tony de Lautour looks to the city streets for his imagery. Gang tattoos, graffiti and references to underground comics show a seedy and dangerous place. De Lautour also presents cobwebs, tatty kiwis, chain-smoking lions and vicious daggers as symbols of our early violent history.

    De Lautour was born in Melbourne but studied at the University of Canterbury School of Fine Arts. He has exhibited regularly throughout New Zealand since 1990 and received the Premier Award in the Visa Gold Art Award in 1995.