He was born in Cambridge in 1951 and studied at St Martin’s School of Art, London (1969-70) and the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, Oxford (1971-74). He has exhibited regularly in both group and individual shows all over the world since his Ruskin days.
One-man shows during his career have taken place in Belgium, Holland, Washington DC, Saudi Arabia and London.
From time to time he accepts portrait commissions and his subjects have included Lord Yehudi Menuhin, Seamus Heaney, Leo Tindermans, Dame Margaret Booth and Sir Ian McKellan.
His work is held in private and corporate collections in North America, Australia, The Middle East and Europe.
Perhaps the best way to get to know the artist is to read what his friends, contemporaries and critics have to say about the artist and his work.
He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad” Scaramouche, of course – but, not less, Tony Lawrence. To know Lawrence is to share in his laughter. He is a very droll fellow who keeps his friends on stitches. Typically, the target of his humour is himself. But if Lawrence is whimsical about life, he is stone serious about art. He works tirelessly in an effort to construct his pictures as solidly as finely-built cabinetry or well-cobbled footwear. His paintings abound with wit; his sense of the absurd is ever-present; but this in an artist who, through long years in the trade, has learned his stuff and his canvasses constitute a veritable compendium of painterly knowledge. Lawrence is a Post-Modernist who knows what he is about. He claims that in his pictures, the questions they engage are to him more important than any answers they might advance. Lawrence asks wonderful questions! Phillip Morsberger the Ruskin Master of Drawing 1971 - 1984
This set of oils on canvas has emerged from Lawrence’s own struggle which, in parallel with the battles of Dante’s own poet hero, has included much interruption, doubt and despair. His only way through his personal Dark Wood and its 4 AM fears has been to paint himself through them. Sir Peter Stothard is Editor of The Times Literary Supplement
The oil paintings are striking, the watercolours enchanting, and both repay study. The painter’s observation is intense, as intense as the blue of that desert sky which so gradually deepens towards profundity, an imperceptible transition that Lawrence captures so well. All these highly intelligent, deeply rewarding, pictures offer a refreshing paradox: of stark images and rich contrasts. Robin Simon The Park Gallery
The Desert Paintings
What is Art?
Ask me questions because that is what art is ....answering questions and solving problems intellectual and technical.
Painting is everything.
Dante works started as a peg to hang all my artistic endeavours on. Prior to Dante I played with investigating classical themes. These explorations of a theme mirrored my technical investigations of the old masters methods.
Which translation of Dante do you prefer?
The Dante I first read was Daphne du Maurier that I found in Blackwell’s in Oxford in 1972. I utilised Dante as an umbrella for my disparate artistic investigations The Daphne du Maurier translation of Inferno opened a parallel world, ripe for exploitation. However I initially told very few people of my inspiration spiritualism and its exploration is often despised in our modern world.
What do you expect an artist to do for you?
I do not consider my Art to be a conversation or a starting point for a discussion; it is merely a statement of where I was or what I was thinking during the conception and execution of any particular piece. Having said this I encourage engagement and personal interpretation always favouring the emotional response over the intellectual dissection.
What is more important a concept or a brushstroke?
The medium I choose to illustrate an image or concept fully is personally derived from feeling that I need to explore the 2 dimensional interpretation of the 3 dimensional reality (of a in the case of spiritual works 4 dimensional) using various and assorted mediums e.g. a line delineated in graphite brings up a different feeling from a similar line in ink or paint.Having said this there is a beauty in simplicity that can easily be obscured in the complexity of the tone and colour at ones disposal in oil.
Does photography paly a part in your process?
As an example photographing my bamboo garden is as much an expression of my creativity as any of my 2 dimensional representations of our 3 dimensional world. One great difference even though the various and assorted bamboos are in effect models is that I have little control how they have turned out. With my models I posed them and discussed the concept or mood I am looking for the inert bamboos just are and I cannot manipulate them as I can with living models this has led to a new dark wood.
What else influences your work?
One of my great stabilising influences is the creative atmosphere afforded by my wife's sacrifices over the years, without this solid base I doubt if half of the work would have come about.
Why the desert?
I went to Saudi by mistake I wanted to paint some palm trees and initially tried to contact a friend in LA to send me some photos for me to work from A Saudi friend heard of this and quite rightly told me I had to work from the real thing Following this conversation a trip to the Kingdom was arranged and. New chapter in my visual vocabulary was initiated I was privileged to have access to whatever I wanted to see that was totally unrestricted When I went out there I did not know what I was going to paint Modern Riyadh has amongst the most spectacular contemporary architecture I had ever seen in such s small space Conversely the old capital reeked of history and mysticism It was not until I spent time in the desert that and saw how these contemporary and educated people related to their roots that a germ of an idea formed I took many photos and did many drawings and spent a long time talking with my hosts and others about their country and their passion for it Upon my return to England I started doing studies and eventually I zeroed in on the palm tree Prior to oil the giver of life in those regions and this became one of my 2 main themes with my desert paintings.
Why the Inferno?
Simply it is the first book in the trilogy and the Daphne du Maurier translation romanticised for me what had been a dry academic wasteland. Her poetic soul enlightened Dante’s unique and colourful way with words I would read and reread her penguin translation of inferno time after time. Each rereading created new pictures that had to be painted; I particularly loved the level of hell where those who blaspheme against nature and art end up the burning sands.....This obviously ties in with my investigations in the Naj desert north of Riyadh. Strange how wrong I got deserts before I spent the night in them. Dante’s world is a feast of loss and short term gain and further loss in fact the classic Eleusinian journey. The first studies were all about the Dark Wood, even though I created a 60 ft. multiple canvas depiction of the dark wood I have never got beyond it. I continually revisit this fertile theme in fact I had my gardener plant my very own bamboo dark wood paintings of which feature heavily in my most recent oils.