Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery is delighted to present its first exhibition of paintings by eminent artist, Imants Tillers. The Tears of Things is Tillers’ first solo show in Sydney in three years, and it comprises twenty significant paintings made between 2005 and 2008.
Landscape is the connecting theme across the shimmering canvasboards in this exhibition, with works drawn from Tillers' Blossoming, Outback and Nature Speaks series. References to the landscape paintings of Egon Schiele, Fred Williams and Albert Namitjira are combined with excerpts taken from more abstract evocations of place by artists such as Rosalie Gascoigne, Emily Kngwarreye and Philipp Otto Runge. Across these visual planes, Tillers has inscribed linguistic landscapes: place names, evocative words and fragments of text are combined to create spacialized, concrete poems. Like an urtext, words are embedded in the terrain of Tillers' canvasboards; language is conceived as the original landscape, inseparable from the visual.
In Lacrimae Rerum (for Dzidra) (Latin for The Tears of Things), poetic phrases are interspersed with the names of Australian ghost towns, creating a textual map of a forgotten Australia. Lacrimae Rerum (for Dzidra) is the ninth painting in Tillers’ Diaspora series—a major project that has occupied the artist for the past fifteen years. Tillers refers to the work as the final painting in the series and has included selected elements from the earlier paintings (McCahon, Kandinsky) against a backdrop of obliterated text sourced from Rosalie Gascoigne's masterpiece Monaro, 1989. The composition is anchored by the motif of the Tropic of Capricorn, which emerges from the undulating lines of Clifford Possum and Tim Leura’s Napperby Death Spirit Dreaming, 1980. The imagery of Possum and Leura’s dreaming exhibits a remarkable visual similarity with the shapes of David Smith’s sculpture Australia, 1951, which Tillers has inscribed twice in the painting, from two differing angles. The formal resemblance between these works (despite their disparate origins in time and space) points to Tillers’ abiding interest in chance, coincidence and the interconnections between all things.
—Olivia Sophia, 2008
Imants Tillers is one of Australia’s most respected artists. He has represented Australia at important international exhibitions such as the Sao Paulo Bienal (1975), Documenta 7 (1982), and the 42nd Venice Biennale (1986). Major solo surveys of Tillers’ work include Imants Tillers: works 1978 – 1988 at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London (1988); Imants Tillers: 19301, at the National Art Gallery, Wellington (1989); Diaspora, National Art Museum, Riga, Latvia (1993); Diaspora in Context at the Pori Art Museum, Pori (1995); Towards Infinity: Works by Imants Tillers, Museum of Contemporary Art (MARCO) in Monterrey, Mexico (1999); and in 2006 a major retrospective of his work, Imants Tillers: one world many visions, was held at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. Tillers has been the recipient of numerous awards and commissions, such as the Osaka Triennale Prize (Gold in 1993, Bronze in 1996, and Silver in 2001), and the inaugural Beijing International Art Biennale Prize for Excellence (2003). Major commissions include the Federation Pavilion, Centennial Park (1985 – 87); the Founding Donors Painting, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney (1991), and two key sculptures for Sydney Olympic Park (2002). Tillers has been a trustee of the Art Gallery of New South Wales since 2001. In 2005 he was awarded a Doctor of Letters honoris causa for ‘his long and distinguished contribution to the field of arts’, by the University of New South Wales. This is Tillers’ first exhibition with Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery.