38. TIM STORRIER
‘One evening in 1981, Storrier stuck a couple of steel posts into some arid clayish earth and strung a rope between them. Then he went to the back of his ute, found a tin of lacquer, coated the rope and set it alight. He says he can’t remember why he decided to do it and has no idea where the concept came from.’1
Storrier’s burning object paintings, and specifically the burning logs, had their genesis in the Australian outback where the artist often travelled to study the light and colour of the landscape. It was a simple idea that came to him whilst on an outback trip - a blazing line of fire set against an opalescent sky – which was to shape the direction of his work for the next decade. Since 1981, Storrier’s fire paintings have evolved into one of Australian contemporary art’s most recognised and successful motifs, and yet the story of the origins of the subject is a reminder of the mysterious and highly personal nature of the process of making of art.
The present work, Incendiary Dawn, is an example of the beautifully composed and executed paintings which Storrier has become so well known for. Here, the setting sun casts an illuminating glow across the parched earth while the voluminous clouds throw long shadows beneath. Scattered stars punctuate the expanse of the dusk sky emphasising the sheer scale of the heavens. The burning log is centred within the composition, drawing the viewer’s attention to the red-hot scorching embers, a reminder of the intense power of fire – one of nature’s greatest phenomenona.
It is, in fact, light which Storrier champions in his fire paintings, as curator Deborah Hart notes, ‘These paintings are about light, action and stillness. They deal with the real and imagined landscape together with the myth of the outback.’2 Storrier’s unique ability to translate onto canvas the spectacular effect of light on our landscape is acutely proven here in Incendiary Dawn. Here, the natural light from the setting sun skillfully creates the ambience of early evening; the spectrum of orange, purple and indigo in the sky accurately depicts the moment just before the sun disappears behind the horizon. The light created by the artist’s flames is portrayed in such a faithful manner that one can almost feel the warmth of the embers when standing in front of the work.
Edmund Capon, former Director of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, remarked upon the inexplicably Australian sense which Tim Storrier’s paintings evoke, and the strong sense of place which is contained within the vocabulary of his paintings, ‘they could not, I believe, have come from any country other than Australia’.3 The awareness of space, low horizons and vast skies: few artists convey the sense of experience more poignantly than Storrier. Incendiary Dawn is a visually spectacular painting that embodies Storrier’s technical skills and affinity with the unique Australian landscape.
1. Lumby, C., Tim Storrier The Art of the Outsider, Craftsman House, Sydney, 2000, p.45
2. Hart, D., Tim Storrier: Burning Gifts, Australian Galleries, catalogue, July 1989, p.18
3. Ibid, p.8
Caroline Jones BA, MArtAdmin