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Imants Tillers Counting: one, two, three 1988

Imants Tillers

Australia b1950
The son of Latvian immigrants who came to Australia at the end of World War Two, Tillers lived and worked in Sydney until relocating to Cooma in the foothills of the Snowy Mountains in 1997. Since his first solo exhibition in 1973, he has been an influential proponent of conceptual painting. With formidable aesthetic literacy and art historical knowledge, he is in some ways more a ‘diagnostician of the image’ than a painter of paintings. He works as a writer and curator as well as a visual artist, and was a trustee of the Gallery from 2001 to 2009.

Counting: one, two, three 1988

This is part of The book of power series which Tillers started in 1981 and still continues. In these multi-canvas appropriation paintings, he incorporates elements from other artists to question authorial originality, how images circulate, and ideas of locality and identity.

The numbers here are taken from Colin McCahon’s Untitled (one, two, three) 1965, overlaid onto a landscape from the late 1800s by Eugène von Guérard. Both are images by white artists who look for a sense of place in New Zealand through different means – one by using Maori motifs and language, the other by representing the landscape, but within a romantic European tradition. Tillers also added the signature of Italian artist Georgio de Chirico, who recycled his own imagery in his works.