Imants Tillers (b.1950-)

Portrait of Imants Tillers

Australian Tapestry Workshop Head Weaver, Sue Batten and Imants Tillers at the Australian Tapestry Workshop, 2014.
Photograph courtesy of ATW.

Born in Sydney in 1950, Tillers is a visual artist, curator and writer. He is the child of Latvian refugees who arrived in Australia in the late 1940s, part of the post-war European diaspora. It is this experience of being displaced to a new land, isolated from cultural and personal histories, which has become a central component of his work.

In 1973 he graduated from the University of Sydney with a Bachelor of Science in Architecture (Hons), and the University Medal. He has exhibited widely since the late 1960s, and has represented Australia at important international exhibitions such as the São Paulo Biennial in 1975, Documenta 7 in 1982 and the 42nd Venice Biennale in 1986.

Since 1981 Tillers has used his signature canvas boards to explore themes relevant to contemporary culture, dealing with effects of migration, displacement and diaspora. More recently, his paintings have been concerned with place, locality and evocations of the landscape. His works are informed by the diasporic experience and longing -about place, relationships to the past and the self, of locality and identity. Together, the more than 80,000 individually numbered canvas boards in Tillers’ paintings (he has numbered each of his boards since he began painting) forms a long poem with many verses.

Tillers’ landscape paintings are made up of fragments of borrowed images and of language; marks, words, phrases and names used to create the country. His work is strongly influenced by a range of artists including the New Zealander Colin McCahon, indigenous artists Michael Nelson Jagamara, Emily Kngwarreye and Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri and European artists Georg Baselitz and Joseph Beuys.

He has been a trustee of the Art Gallery of New South Wales since 2001. In 2005 he was awarded a Doctor of Letters for 'his long and distinguished contribution to the field of arts', by the University of New South Wales.

Imants Tillers currently lives and works in Cooma, New South Wales.