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Australian art

Contemporary art

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52 displacements (no. 2)



Imants Tillers


30 Jul 1950 -


The canvas panels from this series were painted by Imants Tillers after illustrations in ‘Frederic Waugh’s Paintings of the sea’, (Walter Foster ‘How to draw’ Art Books series, no.153, Tustin, California, n.d.) Waugh (1861-1940) was an American artist who studied under Thomas Eakins and who painted numerous seascapes. Tillers copied one painting each week for the period of a year from the reproductions in this book.

Foster’s accompanying text could have been written for a proto-postmodernist: “This nonsense of ‘Never copy’ is advice given freely by persons that have never painted, or by ‘well-meaning’ friends or relatives. When working from an artist’s painting be honest about it. Give the artist credit for his original, sign your name and ‘copy of the artist’. If you have painted a good picture it will sell, or make a nice gift for a friend to enjoy. ‘We all learn from others!’”

Tillers’ use of a system – one painting each week for a year – recalls the systems-based art of some conceptual artists. The gridded display of this work refers to the gridding used by conceptual artists in displaying photo-documentation work and the gridding of some minimal artists such as Carl Andre. The exhortation of the paragraph above becomes ironic in Tillers’ hands as he carefully reproduces not only the painting but its gold frame as illustrated in the book.

Tillers had been working with images derived from paintings and artworks by other artists from 1973 as he moved towards an appropriation-based art. The prevalence of reproductions and their role in how many of us experience art, but also how each exists as a unique version of the artwork with all the inconsistencies of colour and tone from reproduction to reproduction, influenced Tillers’ developing practice as he worked towards the great multi-panel appropriation paintings he was to produce from the early 1980s. The gridding in the display of ‘52 displacements’ was to have a lasting impact on his work as was the sense of displacements in viewing both this work and any artwork that the full title suggests ‘52 displacements: of image/of time/of water/of feeling/one year’s work’.




Media categories

Painting , Installation

Materials used

gouache on canvas, framed text panel


canvas: 34.2 x 42.5 cm; text: 18.8 x 22.0 cm frame

Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.


Gift of Michael Hobbs 2009


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Imants Tillers

Works in the collection


Shown in 2 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 10 publications


Graham Coulter-Smith, The Postmodern Art of Imants Tillers: Appropriation 'en abyme', 1971-2002, London, 2002, 74 (illus.), 147.

Wystan Curnow, Imants Tillers and the 'Book of Power', "Part 1: Imants Tillers', Singapore, 1998, 17, 19 (illus.).

Suzo Gabik, Art and Australia (Vol. 18, No. 4), 'Report from Australia: Part 2", pg.352-55, Sydney, Winter 1981.

John Kaldor AO (Curator), An Australian Accent, Sydney, 1984, 19, 20 (illus.).

Charles Merewether, Towards Infinity: works by Imants Tillers, 'Displacement, Diaspora, Dissemination', pg.21-27, Mexico, 1999, 22, 32 (illus.). 2, illustration is an installation shot of all 52 canvases

Bernice Murphy, Australian Perspecta 1981, Sydney, 1981, 134-135, 135 (illus.).

National Gallery of Victoria [Swanston Street], Popism, 1982.

Michael Newman, Imants Tillers: works 1978-1988, 'Imants Tillers: the artist as translator', London, 1988, (illus), (colour illus.). no pagination or catalogue numbers; illustration is of No.47

n-space, 52 Displacements, Sydney, NSW, 1981, (illus.). no pagination

John Saxby (Editor), Look, 'The art that made me: Debra Phillips', Sydney, Jan 2019-Feb 2019, 21 (colour illus.).