Imants Tillers is one of Australia’s leading contemporary artists. Born in a Latvian migrant family in Sydney (1950), he was awarded a Bachelor of Architecture degree from University of Sydney (1972). His interest in contemporary art emerged during his study years when as a volunteer he became involved in the Christo and Jeanne-Claude project Wrapped Coast, the shrouding of Little Bay in Sydney (1969).
Tillers is referred to as a “thought-provoking” artist and his art is considered to be the quintessence of postmodernism.
His art is intellectual, incorporating references to world cultures, the history of Western art, 20th-century European literature and indigenous Australian culture. Tillers has always chosen for his works topics that would stimulate intellectual debate.
In 1981 Tillers began using small-scale rectangular cartons covered in canvas for his painting, these are often combined into works of impressive scale. These canvasboards have become a distinguishing feature and conceptual solution of his work. Tillers has opted for the appropriation method – his paintings incorporate images found in works by other artists. By quoting them and using many such images in the one work the world is revealed as a system of mutually interlinked occurrences. Text is also an ever-present constituent part of Tillers’s works – sentences taken from works by philosophers, writers, poets and thinkers which like conceptual narratives are carried over from one work to another. The focus of Tillers’s “big questions” is the individual, place and identity.
In Latvia the first contact with the art of Imants Tillers took place in 1993, when a painting from his series Diaspora was shown at the Latvian National Museum of Art. This series was inspired by the political events of 1990 in Latvia, and Tillers started an epic narrative of people who have been torn away from their homelands, scattered all over the world and who then search for their identity in a foreign country. It is a story not only about the Latvian diaspora, because the works also bring up the problem of the aboriginal Australians who were displaced from their traditional areas.
Seventy works have been selected for Imants Tillers’s exhibition Journey to Nowhere, taken from the Australian National Gallery, Canberra; Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney; Oakland Art Gallery, New Zealand; the Eleanora Triguboff Collection, Sydney; the Will Baillieu Collection, Brisbane; and from the artist’s private collection.
The works chosen demonstrate the development of Tillers' creative oeuvre over a period of more than forty years.
From the legendary installation of 1975 inspired by Marcel Duchamp and immediately selected to represent Australia at the Sao Paulo Art Biennial, to paintings using the appropriation method and in particular quotations from aboriginal art which caused such controversy in Australia in the 1980s. Two of the works on show were created in collaboration with the indigenous Australian artist Michael Nelson Tjakamarra.
Dr Elita Ansone, Head of the LNMA Collections and Research Department Arsenals
Created and done by: Latvian National Museum of Art
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