Untitiled 1978 In 1978 Imants Tillers created Untitled. This analysis will demonstrate that the theory and practice informing this work indicates that Tillers developed an antipodean species of postmodern art independently of any American or European 'cultural centre'. Moreover, it will be argued that Untitled acts as a paradigm for Tillers' most sophisticated application of authorial appropriation in his canvasboard series of 1983-91 - the latter being produced when the strategy of postmodern appropriation was in the ascendancy as an international style.
Untitled, 1978, was produced using the then cutting edge Neco reprographic technology. As far as this author is aware no other artist had used this process at that time. The process enables the user to scan artwork - in this case reproductions of Hans Heysen's Summer, 1909 - digitally into a computer. The computer then controls full colour precision paint jets capable of creating large scale images on almost any surface. The surface chosen by Tillers was canvas.
Imants Tillers Inventing Postmodern Appropriation
acrylic and gouache on 54 canvasboards 225 x 210 cm
So the eclecticism was always there, but how would it manifest itself? Chapter 10 guides us towards an answer. "Tillers began to experiment with canvasboards in 1981, producing numerous pencil drawings of imagery appropriated from sources such as reproductions of Giorgio de Chirico's paintings and illustrations in Latvian children's books. In his early Suppressed Imagery works each canvasboard bears a single image and is systematically indexed with a rubber-stamped number."
This numbering system continues, and I'm told the artist has passed the 70,000 mark. The next big change came in 1982 when the artist spread a single image across his canvasboards in a charcoal work called The Field. ...
Through the middle of the '80s, art was split by two movements that were so different from each other that it was hopeless to look for commonalities. Except for one artist. Forget about anyone in Cologne, New York or Amsterdam. In Australia, Imants Tillers struck gold in both halves of that decade. First he was a painter, second he was an appropriationist. It was as simple and as complex as that.
But expressionistic credibility rests on the candid expression of a sentiment; and Tillers doesn't do it. His works are too wily, too calculatingly clever, to realise the expressionistic impulse suggested by the forceful paint.
This is seen nowhere more than in the artist's wilful appropriation of sacred iconographies and schemata that don't belong to him. The iconographic seizure of the Aboriginal patrimony would be part of the game, assimilated in a multicultural blancmange of much cleverness. Indyk, with cleverness to match, says that this "may not seem so outrageous now" as when Tillers first did it, implying that this heroic appropriation has been normalised in the intervening period.
But it hasn't. It seems more brazen now, since the awareness of indigenous symbolic rights has grown, to the point that Tillers' plunder is seen as symbolic sacrilege, a denial of the authenticity that is the only property remaining with a dispossessed people, who now face the further indignity of seeing their holy knowledge trivalised by a clever game of diasporic chess.
Its like some weird Vulcan mind meld.
Imants Tillers possessed by the ghost of Rosalie Gascoigne.
Rosalie Gascoigne, Big Yellow, 1988, sawn up reflective road signs of plywood & aluminium, three panels.