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‘I never intended to paint a self-portrait. My mantra has always been “the self does not exist”; “there is nothing more unlike me than myself”,’ says Imants Tillers.
‘However, several years ago I participated in an artists’ project in the Tasmanian wilderness and the experience brought me face to face with myself. A first self-portrait called The emergency of being resulted, which was hung in the 2013 Archibald Prize. I then worked on a second version in which I appear as a small detail, and now a third in which I appear twice as two small details. Double reality tries to make the invisible visible. It is a portrait of the mind and a kind of visual poem.
‘The title echoes that of a 2014 retrospective exhibition by the celebrated American/Latvian-born artist Vija Celmins, held in Riga, Latvia. When the curator asked me to follow in Celmins’ formidable footsteps with a retrospective of my work [in 2018], I was surprised and perturbed for, although my Latvian parents came to Australia in 1949 as “displaced persons”, I was Australian-born.
‘I have since been consumed by personal questions concerning my identity. Maybe these are also universal questions: who are we? Where did we come from? Where are we going?’
Born in Sydney in 1950, Tillers has been at the forefront of contemporary art for three decades. This is his fifth time in the Archibald Prize. He is also a finalist in this year’s Wynne Prize, which he won in 2012 and 2013.