An image of Monaro

Imants Tillers

(Australia 30 Jul 1950 – )

Monaro

Location
Not on display
Further information

'Monaro' is the first major painting that Tillers completed after moving from Sydney to Cooma in the Monaro district in 1997. It follows the 'Diaspora' series begun in 1992 which considered the themes of "identity, displacement, loss and redemption" [notes from the artist]. As the child of Latvian immigrants who moved to Australia at the end of World War 2 these themes have a personal resonance, while they also address the great population shifts that have occurred in the 20th century, whether voluntary or forced, driven by war, economic necessity or the desire for new horizons. 'Monaro' is a consideration of place in the light of the exploration of themes of identity central to Tillers' recent practice.

While 'Monaro' contains the range of appropriated imagery that characterises Tillers practice, it is also a response to the landscape of the Monaro region. The all over field of soft gray tonalities, with subtle brown and pink tones, embodies a sense of the treeless eroded hills of this region. Over this field are painted the heads of cherubim, derived from a drawing by the German proto-Romanticist Philipp Otto Runge (1777-1820), which was realised in a frieze in the large version of Runge's painting 'Morning' c.1808-09. Tillers has an interest in the legacy of romanticism in German art in the later part of the 20th century, something these cherubim may also embody. In 'Monaro', the cherubim surround an image of a mountain with its peak cut across by a painting stretcher, derived from the artist Sigmar Polke.

Other key references in 'Monaro' include the 'T' panels and the numbers which are cited from New Zealand artist Colin McCahon, whose bare landscapes are a metaphysics of place. The skeleton is perhaps unexpectedly from contemporary British artist Chris Offili. To the right of the transparent canvas with the mountain is an image of St Peters, a church in Riga, capital of Latvia, which was rebuilt after being destroyed in WW2. The original image this is from was found by Tillers in Cooma, a coincidental connection between his new home and his parent's origins. The text within 'Monaro' has a number of sources, but includes German artist Joseph Beuys for the words on the right edge. The quotes over the Polke image are from a poem by French symbolist poet Stéphane Mallarmé. On the left edge of 'Monaro', the text lists twenty ways in which the name of the town Nimmitabel, which is near Cooma, has been spelt over the last century.

While deciphering the references is always rewarding in Tiller's work, they are not a series of clues which reveal an encoded meaning. The citations are part of the experiential whole, mapping fields of allusion rather than defining cause and effect. The themes of identity that occurred in the 'Diaspora' series are intertwined here with reference to a specific place. As Tillers has written, "…issues of locality and identity have become uppermost in my mind and have made their presence felt in my recent work, not as literal representations of landscape, of the grass, hills, sky, clouds or rocks around me, but as 'evocations', through text and other layered visual elements." [Imants Tillers, 'When Locality Prevails', 'Heat¸no.8', Giramondo, Sydney, 2004, pp. 114.]

Year
1998
Media
Painting
Medium
gouache, synthetic polymer paint on 288 canvas boards, nos. 52594-52881
Dimensions
305.0 x 853.0 cm overall installed
Credit
Patricia Lucille Bernard Bequest Fund and the Don Mitchell Bequest Fund 2005
Accession number
340.2005.a-bbbbbbbbbbbb
Copyright
© Imants Tillers