Geheimnisvolle Bader am Nachmittag (No. 14865-14900), 1987
gouache, oilstick, synthetic polymer paint on 36 canvas boards
each panel is stamped with the artist's number
Private collection, Sydney
Galerie Susan Wyss, Zurich, 1987
'One Painting, Cleaving: Imants Tillers', Wollongong City Art Gallery, Wollongong, 9 March - 20 May 1990
Courtesy of the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
Famous for his pioneering use of appropriation in his paintings, Imants Tillers is one of Australia’s leading postmodern artists. Born in Sydney in 1950 into a Latvian family, Tillers’ work often centres upon a sense of place and the meaning of home to migrants, the displaced and the place of the ‘other’ in a multicultural society. The appropriation of other artists’ work, the dialogue between text and image in his paintings, and the monumental scale of his compositions all combine to produce an oeuvre that is both distinctive and highly resonant with Australian and international audiences.
A conflicted sense of home and identity manifests itself in Tillers’ practice. Since 1981, the artist has produced paintings comprised of small numbered canvasboards. Known collectively as ‘The Book of Power’, the works frequently appropriate other artists, especially canonical works of Australian landscape painting. In borrowing the original sense of place felt by colonial artists like Eugène von Guérard and John Glover, Tillers is able to challenge those initial impressions of Australia by juxtaposing their famous paintings with extracts of text that carry contemporary political and spiritual messages. Derived from the French Symbolist poet Stephané Mallarmé’s line that ‘Everything in the world exists to end up in a book’, Tillers has defined the project as follows:
"The panels have been numbered right from the start and the panel count is continuous from 1 to ∞. All modes of art can be accommodated within this book, and all modes of expression: from the trivial to the serious, banal to the profound, the pious to the blasphemous, etc. My intention is the exhaustion of all possible categories and I’ll spend the rest of my life working towards achieving this goal."
Tillers has been exhibiting for five decades in Australia and overseas, including representing Australia at the 42nd Venice Biennale. He won the Wynne Prize, Art Gallery of New South Wales, in 2012 and 2013, and has won prizes at the 1992, 1994, 1996 and 2001 Osaka Print and Painting Triennials. In 2006, the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, held the first survey of Tillers’ work in Australia, Imants Tillers: one world many visions. Most recently, in 2018, a major solo exhibition of his work, Journey to Nowhere, was staged at the Latvian National Museum of Art. Imants Tillers lives and works in Cooma in southern New South Wales.