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A SIGNIFICANT painting co-created by two of Australia’s most senior artists was today unveiled at Parliament House by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tony Smith.
The large work, titled “The Messenger”, is the result of a collaboration between Michael Nelson Jagamara and Imants Tillers, and while the morning’s formalities related particularly to that work, an exhibition of works by the two artists was officially opened at the same time.
“The Messenger”, the third and latest major work to be acquired for the Parliament House collection in recent years, joins more than 600 other contemporary Indigenous artworks in the collection, about one sixth of the collection.
Michael Nelson, best-known to the Australian public for having designed the 90,000-piece mosaic forecourt at the House, is a Warlpiri man from Yuendumu in the Northern Territory, and was on hand for this morning’s unveiling.
He joined Tillers, the Cooma based artist of Latvian heritage whose artistic preoccupations include the themes of displacement who is best known for his huge artistic impression of Mount Kosciuszko at the National Gallery of Australia.
Mr Smith told the crowd of well-wishers this morning that this “great and productive relationship” had been born out of a chance encounter, and that the central work on display “draws deeply on what it means to be Australian”. Both artists, he pointed out, closes links with Parliament House with Michael Nelson’s forecourt the first and last thing seen by visitors. Tillers had been collected by the House from its early days until now the collection featured around 20 of his works.
Together the pair have been making collaborative works, about 21 in all, since 2001. Mr Smith described their artistic adjournment journey as “completely unique”. Using Brisbane as another meeting place, they had collaborated without using a formula and in no way compromising their artistic languages.
“The fusion of creating art has created alchemy,” he said.
Mr Smith told those among the crowd of well-wishers who thought they’d seen “The Messenger” before today that they were not mistaken – it had been the subject of a light projection during “Enlighten 2017”.
Brisbane artist and gallery director Michael Aether introduced the artwork and the two artists, describing how the new work incorporated Possum Dreaming, Kangaroo Dreaming and the iconography of the yam, which he said was “a metaphor for Aboriginal people having underground ownership”.
A notable feature of the painting, he said, was the full signature of Michael Nelson Jagamara at the bottom.
He explained Tillers’ use of the classical symbolism of Italian artist Giorgio de Chirico, the image of the Greek messenger-God Hermes and his fondness for including words derived from the French poet Mallarmé.
And the highlight of the day for Michael Nelson? On arriving at Parliament House, he told visitors, he had a rushed to a group of children looking at his forecourt mosaic and told them, “you’ll be famous artists, everybody will love you”.
“Meeting Place: Michael Nelson Jagamara and Imants Tillers” may be viewed in the Presiding Officers’ Exhibition Area on level one of Parliament House daily until November 12.