Tony de Lau­tour’s ret­ro­spec­tive charts 30 years of cre­ative out­put.

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Pain­ter, ce­ram­i­cist, sculp­tor and provo­ca­teur Tony de Lau­tour’s first ma­jor ret­ro­spec­tive, Us V Them takes in work from the past three decades. A new body of large-scale paint­ings has been com­pleted es­pe­cially for the ex­hi­bi­tion, on at Christchurch Art Gallery un­til Septem­ber 9. De Lau­tour first came to na­tional promi­nence in 1994 with an ex­hi­bi­tion en­ti­tled Bad White Art. Con­sist­ing of a se­ries of thickly worked paint­ings – de­lib­er­ately naive, even crude – it in­cluded im­agery that drew on the seed­ier as­pects of gang and prison life: spi­ders’ webs, guns, knives, teardrops, chains, light­ing bolts and sy­ringes. The artist con­tin­ued to draw on pop­u­lar cul­ture through­out the 1990s and 2000s. Mem­o­rably, a se­ries of paint­ings was in­spired by cor­po­rate lo­gos, which were subtly rein­vented as land­scapes fea­tur­ing the South­ern Alps. His art dur­ing this time was funny and dark – it nod­ded and winked, it was se­ri­ous and silly. “He por­trayed a seedy, an­tag­o­nis­tic side of New Zealand,” says cu­ra­tor Peter Van­gioni, “with his unique take on Aotearoa iden­tity and colo­nial his­tory.” How­ever, since the Christchurch earth­quakes of 2010 and 2011, De Lau­tour’s work has moved more into ab­strac­tion; colour­ful geo­met­ric shapes jos­tle for po­si­tion, at times full of en­ergy, else­where sparser, more del­i­cate and some­how even beau­ti­ful. “Af­ter the earth­quakes I found fig­u­ra­tive work a lit­tle... facile,” says de Lau­tour. “I just wanted to deal with shapes. Shapes seemed more real; like ob­jects.”

From top ‘Water­fall II’ (2011); ‘Un­ti­tled’ (2004). Both paint­ings are dis­played in Us V Them, a Tony de Lau­tour ret­ro­spec­tive at Christchurch Art Gallery.

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