Welcome to the low brow, high art world of Tony de Lautour’s paintings, sculptures and ceramics.
One of New Zealand’s leading painters, de Lautour’s early works drew from wide-ranging sources including seedy underground street culture, tattoos, post-punk music and comic books as well as fine English porcelain and antiques. De Lautour was awarded a New Zealand Arts Laureate in 2012, and over the past decade his painting has developed into a unique take on geometric abstraction. US V THEM brings together a selection of de Lautour’s work produced over the past thirty years.
- Curator: Peter Vangioni
- Exhibition number: 1054
Contemporary Art Partner
De Lautour / Greig / Hammond
An exciting opportunity to see new work by leading Canterbury artists Tony de Lautour, Jason Greig and Bill Hammond
Tony de Lautour: Unreal Estate
Painted on found pages from real estate publications, Unreal Estate, is an artist's book published by local artist Tony de Lautour and Christchurch Art Gallery.
Welcome to the winter 2018 edition of Bulletin—my first as director of Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū.
Driving Without a Licence
Peter Robinson: I may be wrong about this, but I believe that we were the last generation to experience the primacy of painting at art school. What I mean by this is that when we were at Ilam, students had to compete to get into departments. As crazy as it sounds now, there was a very clear hierarchy: painting was the most popular discipline and afforded the most esteem, sculpture second, then film, print, design and photography somewhere down the line. Can you remember why you ended up choosing sculpture? And furthermore why you ended up being a painter? Do you think your training as a sculptor affected the way you think about or approach painting that is different to someone who was trained formally as a painter?
Tony de Lautour's Underworld 2
Underworld 2 is a must-see. I know, I know. Everything is a must-see or a must-read or a must-do in this society of superlatives and imperatives. But you really do need to be in the same room as this work. Underworld 2 is immense. You need to be in front of it—to be immersed, to be overwhelmed, to be confronted. I start at the left-hand side and plot my journey as if I am planning a road trip and this is my map; first south around the mountains, turn left, then keep going until you pass a lion on the right-hand side. Stop and take in the scenery, go down a dead-end road or two. There’s no rush. You’ll know when you’re there.
When we asked Tony de Lautour to produce a new work for the Bunker—the name Gallery staff give to the small, square elevator building at the front of the forecourt on Montreal Street—he proposed a paint scheme inspired by Dazzle camouflage. Associated with the geometric near-abstraction of the vorticist movement, Dazzle was developed by British and American artists during the First World War to disguise shipping. It was a monumental form of camouflage that aimed not to hide the ship but to break up its mass visually and confuse enemies about its speed and direction. In a time before radar and sonar were developed, Dazzle was designed to disorientate German U-boat commanders looking through their periscopes, and protect the merchant fleets.
Senior curator Lara Strongman spoke with Tony de Lautour in late January 2016.
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.
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)
Fifteen is our birthday party (guess how old we are…) and it’s less than two weeks away! It’s also the opening event for Tony de Lautour’s US V THEM, which is our big winter exhibition. We asked curator Peter Vangioni and visitor programmes coordinator Amy Marr what they’re most excited about in the incredible line-up for this grand birthday bash.