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Imants Tillers

Imants Tillers: a note on Credo

Published below is Imants Tillers’ preface to Credo (December 2022), a collection of essays on art and art history, written across the distinguished contemporary Australian artist’s career.

From Wassily Kandinsky’s Concerning the Spiritual in Art (1911) to Joseph Kosuth’s ‘Art After Philosophy’ (1969), artists have always been important contributors to the written discourse on art. The first essay in this selection, ‘Locality Fails’, was commissioned by Paul Taylor for an early issue of Art+Text in 1982, and the last, ‘The Sources’, by Ivor Indyk in 2019 for this collection, and is published here for the first time. Unlike the iconic and polemical texts of Kandinsky and Kosuth, which can stand alone as powerful manifestos of a particular time and place, this selection of essays has no overarching theme, no grand narrative. It is fragmentary in nature, with essays written for specific purposes – for magazines, for exhibition catalogues, for conferences, for lectures – these texts are akin to ‘speeches delivered on just such and such an occasion’.

Since I never envisaged these essays being collected in a single volume, overlaps occur. Indeed, from time to time I have quoted the same sources exactly, and so inevitably there are a number of repetitions. Instead of editing out these repetitions, I decided to keep them. For I am not afraid of ‘repetition’ – indeed repetition is one of the fundamentals, not only of my writing, but of my painting as well. Occasionally I have tried to make exact copies of my own pre-existing work. In my paintings, which combine text and image, there are several phrases which have been repeated so many times that I have forgotten their origin, and they now seem to emanate from my own body of work.

Without doubt the phrase that I have repeated the most is from the French symbolist poet, Stéphane Mallarmé: ‘A Throw of the Dice will Never Abolish Chance.’ Since 1998 this phrase has become something of a mantra for me – framing almost every painting I have executed. It speaks to me about some kind of profound truth in relation to ‘chance’ and ‘destiny’ – the essence of the mystery of our lives – the degree to which we can and cannot mould, influence or determine our life-trajectory. We well know that the unexpected can arrive at any moment, though fortunately not every life will end up as a shipwreck!

Therefore, just as ‘quotation’ and ‘appropriation’ are fundamental tenets of my work, so too is ‘repetition’. Also, as Mallarmé once declared: ‘All the Great masters, ancient and modern, plagiarized Homer, and Homer plagiarized God.’

— Imants Tillers

Photo: Corinna and Dylan (2018)