Imants Tillers

Precinct (vu2), (No.40752-40760), 1994
gouache, oilstick, synthetic polymer paint on 9 canvas boards
114.3 x 76.2 cm
each board is stamped with the artists' number

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Sherman Galleries, Sydney
Private collection, Melbourne
Private collection, Sydney

'Imants Tillers: Jump', Sherman Galleries, Sydney, 12 May - 11 June 1994, cat. 3

Along with Juan Davila, Imants Tillers is Australia's most interesting and important Post-modernist artist. Recontextualising images by Australian and international artists, in 'Precinct (vu2)' we see him appropriating from New Zealand artist Colin McCahon's 'Number' paintings, while drawing upon the overlayering of numbers from American artist Jasper Johns 1963 series of the same name. The work of both McCahon and Johns has been central to Tillers work, and it is with this work that the two image-makers work unites.

'Precinct (vu2)' consists of ten pieces of board that feature a large numeral two. The fragmentation of the picture plane visible in 'Precinct (vu2)' is a considered conceptual strategy that runs throughout Tiller's entire body of work. When viewing the work, the eye may move between and beyond the highly textured surfaces, or to the numerical and alphabetic forms that Tillers has painted onto the surface. This fragmentation of the image does not confine the viewer to a single pictorial space, but moves the eye around the work in a non-linear way. Thus, Tillers decentralises the art object in its own reading, allowing the viewer to make their own journey through the symbolic aspects of the work.

  • Precinct (vu2), (No.40752-40760)

Courtesy of the artist

View artist profile

Famous for his pioneering use of appropriation in his paintings, Imants Tillers (b. 1950) is one of Australia’s most important and renowned postmodern artists. Born 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 his audience.

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 likeEugène 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.

Tillers has been exhibiting for five decades, including representing Australia at the 42nd Venice Biennale. Most recently, in 2018, a major solo exhibition of his work, Journey to Nowhere, was staged at the Latvian National Museum of Art. He lives and works in Cooma in southern New South Wales. Tillers is represented by Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney and Arc One Gallery, Melbourne.