Tag Archives: imants tillers

Mt Townsend

I had a great trip recently, snowshoeing from Crackenback (above Thredbo) to Mt Townsend. It was mid-week (no-one else out there), there had been about 20cm of fresh snow the night before (creamy smooth snow with no tracks) and the weather was glorious (sunny cold and some nice dark clouds coming in from the west during the afternoon).

One purpose for the trip was reconnaissance; I have long admired Eugene Von Guerard’s painting Northeast View from the Northern Top of Mount Kosciusko (which is actually a view from the top of Mt Townsend).

It depicts a panoramic view from near the summit of Mt Townsend in the main range of the Snowy Mountains, looking northeast across Lake Albina and the Watsons Crags to Mt Twynam and Mt Jagungal in the distance. Shown in the central foreground are the members of German scientist Georg von Neumayer’s 1862 expedition team (including Hector the dog) which was undertaking a magnetic survey of the colony of Victoria. A storm, which later visited extreme and almost catastrophic conditions upon the party, can be seen approaching from the left background Apart from the pile of boulders in the left foreground, which do not exist in the actual location, the scene is shown with a fair degree of topographical accuracy

Eugene von Guérard, North-east view from the northern top of Mount Kosciusko (1863)

Eugene von Guérard, North-east view from the northern top of Mount Kosciusko (1863) - National Gallery of Australia

The painting was also appropriated by Imants Tillers in a 1985 painting (actually done as 165 separate canvas board panels) entitled Mount Analogue.Mount Analogue

Imants Tillers, Mount Analogue (1985) – National Gallery of Australia, purchased 1987. Painting, oil, oil stick and synthetic polymer paint. 279.0 h x 571.0 w cm

I’ve got this idea of reproducing this image as a photograph on 19 November this year – which will be exactly 150 years after Von Guerard was there. So part of my aim was to confirm the location of the painting’s vantage point, check lens options (I found the Canon 24-70 2.8L got the aspect about right) – and of course to make some images while I was there!

So here’s my mid-winter version of the scene (with the made-up bits of Von Guerard’s scene added in):Homage to Eugene Von Guerard and Imants Tillers

Homage to Eugene Von Guerard and Imants Tillers

The light was quite lovely the day I was there, especially as the clouds came up in the afternoon and chased me back to Crackenback, and I got nice images along the course of my 8 hours of tramping through the snow. I’ve reproduced a few of them below, but you can see the full set on the main Jokar web site at this link. Hope you like them!

Mt Townsend

Slopes of Muellers Peak

Descending from Mt Townsend

Looking back at Mt Townsend (my tracks in the snow)

Above Seaman's Hut

Between Seaman's Hut and Rawson Pass

Text in photography

This post contains some thoughts on the incorporation of text in still photography, and was written as notes for my Private Thoughts in Public Places project.

Text and images have been combined in art since writing was first used. Written text was routinely combined with visual imagery in ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Greece, and by artists from traditional Chinese calligraphers , to the creators of illuminated manuscripts in Middle Ages and Renaissance times. The text generally served to provide descriptive information or labels of the image content, or to impart messages of religious or political significance. The text generally formed an integral part of the artwork.

The incorporation of text in western art became less common in the succeeding centuries, but by the early 20th century (most notably amongst Cubist, Dadaist and Surrealist artists), text began to be employed to deliver conceptual messages, to amuse or to comment on the nature of art and the functions of language itself .

As well-known examples, René Magritte highlighted the difference between objects and their referents in The Treachery of Images (La trahison des images) (1928-29), and Marcel Duchamp played with language and visual puns in many of his works. His aim was to move from creation of art designed simply to provide visual enjoyment (which he termed ‘retinal art’) to art intended to engage and challenge the mind of the viewer, art in which the expression of ideas was paramount. Language formed a key part of that approach.

The Treachery of Images (1928-29). Rene Magritte








By the 1960s and early 1970s, some conceptual artists were producing work in which the use of text to deliver artistic content had entirely supplanted the visual elements of their work. This was no longer text in art, but text as art. For example John Baldessari, in his work of the late 1960s, famously sent his work out to be created by a local signwriter.

Everything is purged from this painting but art (1966-1968). John Baldessari













Pop art of the 1960s addressed the place of mass media in defining contemporary cultural identity, and postmodernist artists challenged the notion of the artist as author-creator. Both of these movements have made extensive use of text as a vehicle for expressing ideas about art and within artworks.

Pay nothing until April (2003). Ed Ruscha











Bruce Nauman has directly used text in his photographic and sculptural work, and based many of his images on visual puns (e.g. in “Bound to fail”). Ed Ruscha created series of ‘word paintings’ containing words (and later, phrases) for ironic or satirical effect.

I can’t believe I’m in Paris (1995). Ken Lum

The View from K (1997-98). Imant Tillers











Contemporary culture is now saturated with images and text, often – or perhaps usually – in combination. The urban landscape, advertising, mass media, web content (even t-shirts!) all deliver information primarily in the form of text-plus-image packages. The incorporation of textual elements in visual art including fine art photography is now widely practiced to the point of being unremarkable. Artists as diverse as the Australian painter Imants Tillers and the Canadian photographer Ken Lum employ text as a key element within their practice – though in different ways and for quite different purposes.

In ‘theatrical’ films however the inclusion of text is (generally, and currently) less evident – apart from the standard inclusion of titles and credits to top-and-tail the work. One notable exception is the use of subtitles to provide simultaneous translation of foreign language films.

On occasion subtitles have been employed to provide an alternate text to the spoken words of the film. For example in Annie Hall (1979), Woody Allen used ‘discordant’ subtitles during a conversation between the Woody Allen character and Diane Keaton when they’re both trying to impress each other, while subtitles appear showing their true thoughts.

Annie Hall [still] (1979). Woody Allen. Spoken dialogue: “Photography’s interesting, ‘cause, you know, it’s a new art form, and a set of aesthetic criteria have not emerged yet.”

Annie Hall (1979). Woody Allen. Spoken dialogue: ‘Photography’s interesting, ‘cause, you know, it’s a new art form, and a set of aesthetic criteria have not emerged yet.’






In my Private Thoughts in Public Places project I have also sought to apply subtitle text for this purpose. The projection of this text out into the landscape (onto signs, buildings and the sky) is an extension of this approach, and an attempt to show that inner thoughts actually transform the thinker’s perception and mental construction of the landscape that they occupy. Unlike subtitles, the words are not merely a layer on top of the scene; they come to form a physical part of the environment itself.