As one of Australia’s most significant artists, Imants Tillers has been at the forefront of contemporary art for over three decades. Since 1981 Tillers has used his signature canvas boards to explore themes relevant to contemporary culture, from the centre/periphery debates of the 1980s, to the effects of migration, displacement and diaspora. Most recently, his paintings have been concerned with place, locality and evocations of the landscape.
Recently a major exhibition of Tillers works was held at the Latvian National Museum of Art, Riga. Sixty-four works were chosen, taken from the NGA (Canberra), AGNSW (Sydney), MCA (Sydney), Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki (New Zealand) as well as from the artist’s private collection. The Latvian National Museum of Art stated that “the works chosen demonstrate the development of master’s creative oeuvre over a period of more than forty years – from 1975 to 2017. From the legendary installation of 1975 inspired by Marcel Duchamp and immediately selected to represent Australia at the São 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.” An extensive bilingual book Imants Tillers. Journey to Nowhere accompanied the exhibition with contributions from Dr. art. Elita Ansone, Dr. Graham Coulter-Smith, Prof. Mark Ledbury, Dr. Ian McLean, and Imants Tillers himself.
Born in Sydney in 1950, Imants Tillers currently lives and works in Cooma, New South Wales. In 1973 Tillers graduated from the University of Sydney with a Bachelor of Science in Architecture (Hons), and the University Medal. Imants Tillers has exhibited widely since the late 1960s, and has represented Australia at important international exhibitions, such as the Sao Paulo Bienal in 1975, Documenta 7 in 1982, and the 42nd Venice Biennale in 1986. Major solo surveys of Tillers’ work include Journey to Nowhere, Latvian Museum of Art, Riga (2018); Imants Tillers: works 1978–1988 at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London (1988); Imants Tillers: 19301, at the National Art Gallery, Wellington (1989); Diaspora, National Art Museum, Riga, Latvia (1993); Diaspora in Context at the Pori Art Museum, Pori (1995); Towards Infinity: Works by Imants Tillers, Museum of Contemporary Art (MARCO) in Monterrey, Mexico (1999); and in 2006 a major retrospective of his work, Imants Tillers: one world many visions, was held at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. Tillers has also exhibited in numerous group exhibitions around the world, including An Australian Accent at PS1, New York (1984); Antipodean Currents at the Guggenheim Museum, Soho (1995); Australian Perspecta (1981, 1987-89); The World Over/Under Capricorn: Art in the Age of Globalisation at the City Gallery, Wellington and Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (1996); the Biennale of Sydney (1979, 1986, 1988, and 2006); Kunst Nach Kunst (Art After Art), at the Neues Museum Weserburg, Germany (2003); Prism, at the Bridgestone Museum of Art, Tokyo (2006); Australia at the Royal Academy of Arts in London (2013): and Dreamings: Aboriginal Australian art meets de Chirico at the Museo Carlo Bilotti in Rome (2014).
Tillers was the winner of the Art Gallery of New South Wales’ Wynne Prize for landscape painting for two consecutive years (2012-2013). He has received numerous awards and commissions, such as the Osaka Triennale Prize (Gold in 1993, Bronze in 1996, and Silver in 2001), and the inaugural Beijing International Art Biennale Prize for Excellence (2003). Major commissions include: Written in water (hymn to Sydney), a major painting for the Commonwealth Bank Building in Martin Place, Sydney (2015); Avenue of Remembrance, a tapestry design for the Australian War Memorial commemorating the Centenary of the ANZAC landing at Gallipoli (2015); the Federation Pavilion, Centennial Park (1985-87); the Founding Donors Painting, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney (1991); and two key sculptures for Sydney Olympic Park (2002). Tillers was a Trustee of the Art Gallery of New South Wales from 2001 to 2009. In 2005 he was awarded a Doctor of Letters honoris causa for ‘his long and distinguished contribution to the field of arts’, by the University of New South Wales. This year, Imants Tillers is the subject of a new feature-length documentary, Thrown into the World, directed by Antra Cilinska.