Imants Tillers is one of Australia’s foremost contemporary painters for four decades, distinguished for juxtaposing layers of imagery and text drawn from a myriad of influence and inspiration. The result is a convergence of ideas and a multiplicity of references that cite art – including other artists’ work – history, literature, politics, society and the artist’s personal history.
Amygdala Hijack (2019) is based on late London-born artist Malcolm Morley’s The Ultimate Anxiety (1978), which depicts a scene of Venice interrupted by a freight train. The painting was included in Morley's exhibition at Sperone Westwater Gallery in New York in 2018, it was also the inspiration for Tillers’ work Accumulation of Blank (1984), now in the collection of the National Gallery of Australia.
Morley’s mysterious juxtaposition of the Bucentaur (the state barge used by the Doges of Venice on formal occasions and ceremonies) and a freight train evokes both the surrealist and metaphysical genres. In Tillers’ version, there is a luminous sky based on the work of Central Desert artist Kenny Williams Tjampitjinpa. The combination of Indigenous imagery and metaphysical painting has been an ongoing theme in Tillers’ work, following his realisation in 2013 that most Indigenous art is fundamentally metaphysical, in that it describes a world beyond appearances.