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Laith McGregor

The European  2009

pencil and ball-point on paper

151.5 × 99.5 × 6cm, framed

Museum of Contemporary Art, purchased with funds provided by the Coe and Mordant families, 2010

2010.24

About the Artwork

This drawing in lead pencil and ball-point pen was made during a three-month residency at the Centre Intermondes at La Rochelle in France in 2009. Laith McGregor has established a style based on intricate drawings executed in biro and pencil. These figurative works, often self-portraits and portraits of family members, interweave history and fiction, popular culture and mythology. The curious combination of the chain mail and the wooden barque (sailing vessel) adorning The European, along with his pale eyes and distant gaze, suggest something of an archetype.

The image takes its inspiration from the rich history of La Rochelle, with its seafaring legends, sea shanties and medieval traffic during the Crusades. The Templar Knights passed through there regularly and in the eighteenth century the town also became a port-of-call for the international slave trade. McGregor has described the work as ‘an outsider’s observation of a French port-side city’s rich history. La Rochelle has provided a backdrop for a fable, a seaman’s song, a sea shanty. Part autobiography, part documentation, fiction and non-fiction. Historical figures and fictitious characters morph and weave, reaffirming themselves and their presence like phantoms into the fabric of my journey. Like a classical poem, lives, places and paths intertwine into a new story, a comedy and a tragedy’.[1]

[1] Laith McGregor, correspondence with the MCA, October 2010.

A ghost-like chevalier unknowingly holding a slave ship upon his crown … in a continuous journey across time.

Laith McGregor, correspondence with the MCA, October 2010

Laith McGregor

– About the artist

Born 1977, Nambour, Queensland.Lives and works Melbourne, Victoria.


Laith McGregor’s practice spans drawing, painting, sculpture and video. His intricately drawn works, using ballpoint pen, have been shown in Australia and internationally. His solo exhibitions include Somewhere Anywhere, Starkwhite, Auckland (2015); SOS, Ryan Renshaw Gallery, Brisbane (2014); Anima, Sullivan+Strumpf, Auckland Art Fair, New Zealand (2013); Untitled (Don Patterson), Studio 12, Gertrude Contemporary, Melbourne (2012); Spook, Ryan Renshaw Gallery, Brisbane (2011); Moontown, Sullivan+Strumpf, Melbourne Art Fair, Melbourne (2010); Based on a True Fable, Sullivan+Strumpf, Sydney (2009); and Shape it any way you like, TCB Gallery, Melbourne (2008).

Recent group exhibitions include The Extreme Climate of Nicholas Folland, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide (2014); The Red Queen, Museum of New and Old Art, Hobart (2013); National Works on Paper Prize, Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery, Mornington Peninsula (2012); Gertrude Contemporary Studio Artists’ Exhibition, Gertrude Contemporary, Melbourne (2011); and Freehand: Recent Australian Drawing, Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne (2010).

McGregor’s work is represented in public and private collections in Australia, including the Art Gallery of Ballarat, Victoria; Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne; Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart; and Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane.

Learn more

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