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