Nau mai, haere mai, welcome to eyeCONTACT, a forum built to encourage art reviews and critical discussion about the visual culture of Aotearoa New Zealand. I'm John Hurrell its editor, a New Zealand writer, artist and curator. While Creative New Zealand and other supporters are generously paying me and other contributors to review exhibitions over the following year, all expressed opinions are entirely our own.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Two approaches to 3D space

Tony de Lautour Sample and Matt Hunt Sold Gold Heaven
Ivan Anthony
31 October - 24 November 2007

Sample is in many ways a typical de Lautour exhibition, featuring dark rectangles and demonstrating a holistic approach - like very large black circuit boards. They are an urban version of a ‘forest of signs’, an aerial cityscape seen from three–quarter view, crammed with glowing images.

Tony de Lautour has shown works with this compositional format of this show before at Ivan Anthony’s, but they were smaller and less confident. These paintings and prints are gruntier and more playful in their explorations. Fooling around with arrows and lightning bolts as dominant motifs, it is almost as if he was making a glorified game of snakes and ladders, but building in a cluttered, slightly ominous, claustrophobic ambience and seen from a three-quarter angle that is from the front but high.

The title Sample locates the work as a comment on the market place and our consumerist, profit obsessed society. The works delight in a cacophony of voices all making their pitch, desperate to capture your attention and reach into your pocket. The treatment of jumbled signs has a Richard Killeen ‘cut-out’ look about it, but the content of advertising refers to de Lautour’s old pal, Peter Robinson, and his interest during the nineties in promotional imagery.

De Lautour’s commercial landscapes seem also to refer to Magritte’s images of falling bowler hated commuters, profit raining downwards from the avatar-like glyphs. Some are unusually abstract, with the vectors, triangular arrowheads and zigzags being uncommonly geometrical and flat –with no falling rain or intricate drawing. Other ingredients have typical de Lautour motifs, such as mountain ranges within large tourism dollar signs, or American eagles, or cobwebs.

The funny thing is that de Lautour in these paintings also has a hint of the jeremiad rant – a pinch of McCahon perhaps. There is a cold nocturnal light, without chroma, that spells doom and seems to give them a subtly condemnatory air.

If de Lautour is claustrophobic and without chroma, Matt Hunt’s paintings are agoraphobic with hue. These fantastical landscapes seem like Lord of the Rings meets Hieronymus Bosch. Peopled by wingless birds, dinosaurs, flying guitarists and stag-headed angels, these mixtures of sci-fi, hallucination, and religious fervor are decidedly airy, with lots of warm morning light. They explore the notion of a utopian paradise, including lots of Christian metaphor in the form of little written messages. The open emptiness of the contoured peninsulas and skies is a little too inactive and awkward for the scale. I prefer the dynamic of the smaller, more compact works that though less busy, seem tighter and more intimate.

Hunt’s images are distinctive through their strange spatial qualities, and hovering skinny figures with speech bubbles. They seem connected to the early vinyl work of Saskia Leek but are crankier, more bible-bashy – without her warmth and humour. Their animals and general fantasy makes them much more other worldly, but also slightly cool. Like a dream you remember from three weeks ago from which you now feel detached.

Images,top to bottom: Matt Hunt, Age of Wonder, oil on canvas 2007; Matt Hunt, Solid Gold Heaven,oil on canvas 2007; Tony de Lautour, Sample, oil on canvas 2007; Tony de Lautour, Shaky Ground, oil on canvas 2007.

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