Menzies Art Brands



Like all art of substance, the paintings of Tim Storrier ask more questions than they answer. They are now instantly recognisable to anyone even vaguely interested in Australian Art, but we are invariably no closer to really understanding their true meaning.  Most writing on the subject tends to ask the deep questions, and then conclude that, in the end, they will remain a mystery. The artist is no help in this, stating that the pictures do not carry any deep political or social intent, but then their complexity and the perfection of their execution suggests otherwise. Surely all that work and slow, deliberate rendering of objects in space must actually mean something beyond an overt display of the artists bravura technique? Tim Storrier eschews any special agenda and in his public comments he makes it clear he has little time or sympathy for political or social messaging in art. When he does comment on such things, it is invariably from a conservative and often politically incorrect viewpoint. Art is what it is, the paintings are what they are, without us having to dig below the surface. In their simplest form, the outback paintings are charming and accessible images of familiar forms the dry dusty outback stretching to the horizon, the bright starry sky and the burning logs, a place of warmth in the cold desert air. But then more and more the artist introduces seemingly incongruous motifs the abandoned mattress, burning paper darts, bottles, cans and other rubbish the detritus of a human presence long departed.

Detritus (with Red Belly) is one of a series of works in which the familiar burning log and landscape are enlivened by the presence of that icon of the Australian bush, the red bellied black snake. We can ascribe a simple explanation in the cold of the desert snakes need warmth before they can go about their daily lives. Normally we would think of the snake basking on a rock in the sun, absorbing the heat of the mornings first light. If that, then why not stretch out by a convenient fire, just as the drovers dog might do after a hard day on the plains? But that seems too simple, for however natural its appearance, we cannot separate the snake from thousands of years of iconography, where the presence of the serpent sits at the core of the belief systems of countless societies, religions and sects. Christianity places the snake at the moment of creation, the presence of evil that tempts the hapless Eve and sees our mythical progenitors cast out into the world, in time to create the rest of the human race. Or equally it might be a veritable swarm of them writhing about the severed head of Medusa, or the proud Minoan goddess, bare breasted and waving a serpent in either hand as she commands her followers to obey, or else. But Tim Storriers red belly is not curled ready to strike; rather stretched out full length along the line of fire as if demonstrating its true length and majesty, with just a momentary turn of the head. It is perhaps the rope before being stretched between the poles and set alight, or the stockmans whip, another favourite Storrier device, about to be raised and cracked into life. Like all of his works we can marvel at the sheer brilliance of its execution and, failing access to any deeper meaning, use it as the stepping stone to our own stories of imagination and wonder.

Gavin Fry


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