Menzies Art Brands

44. TIM STORRIER Incendiary Dawn 2005


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 cant remember why he decided to do it and has no idea where the concept came from.1

Storriers 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, Storriers fire paintings have evolved into one of Australian contemporary arts 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 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 twilight sky emphasising the sheer scale of the heavens. The burning log is centred within the composition, drawing the viewers attention to the red-hot scorching embers, a reminder of the intense power of fire one of natures greatest phenomena.

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  Storriers unique ability to translate onto canvas the spectacular effect of light on our landscape is acutely proven in Incendiary Dawn. Here, the natural light from the setting sun 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 artists flames is depicted in such a faithful manner that one can almost feel the warmth of the embers when standing in front of the work.

The late Edmund Capon, former Director of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, remarked upon the inexplicably Australian sense which Tim Storriers 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 Storriers 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, exhibition catalogue, July 1989, p.18
2. Ibid, p.8

Caroline Jones MArtAdmin

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