Menzies Art Brands

TIM STORRIER, Reflected Fireline


My vision of landscape… has to do with it being nothing more than a backdrop for theatre, a stage set for human drama – travel, dreams, disaster.1

For almost half a century Tim Storrier has largely sought to capture his personal reaction to the landscape, his iconography a synthesis of real and imagined fragments of his own experience. Though Storrier has made the landscape his primary subject he has developed his own unique way of seeing the land using light and space. Fire has emerged as his most iconic ‘character’, always manifested against the backdrop of a desolate landscape with expansive sky rendered meticulously with his signature ‘antirealist’ sensibilities. The resulting ‘memory-scapes’ are not about recording the landscape in terms of its topography, but rather conjure the essence of human experience using the landscape as a backdrop to reflect a state of mind. 

Storrier’s fire paintings had their genesis in the early eighties in the outback documentation of burning objects. Art Historian Catherine Lumby recalls this pivotal moment:

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. But the photograph documenting the onsite project, ‘Night Passage’, shows a motif which dominates some of his finest work to date: a blazing line of fire moving between two invisible points set against an opalescent sky.2

The first incarnation of fire in Storrier’s work was the burning outline of a human form, followed by a burning rope, a burning log, and then a burning carcass; it may seem as though Storrier’s manifesto is to set everything alight. This fire imagery has been used by Storrier to symbolise the awesome power of nature, regeneration, renewal and pure passion. Fire as a motif has been reworked and re-envisaged over the subsequent decades resulting in some of Storrier’s most powerful and evocative works.

Reflected Fireline 1999 exemplifies how Storrier’s dominant motif has been developed since it emerged in his work two decades prior. Here the posts have disappeared, the fire levitates above the earth, plumes of smoke billow into the expansive atmosphere and glowing embers rain down on the landscape. The fire is expertly depicted along the horizontal plane of the painting as though the flames were licking along the canvas itself; the glowing hot flames a triumph of illusion. Storrier’s interest in transience fuels the concept of ‘reflection’ often articulated through both his subject matter and titles. In Reflected Fireline the trail of the fire as it devours the rope is incongruously reflected against the earth below, accentuating the impermanence of the moment. “These blaze-lines, with a beginning and an end, represent a moment in time – a brilliant, albeit brief episode played out against the permanence of a seemingly endless horizon line.”3

Reflected Firelinecomprises a series of expertly enacted panels that seek a perfection that is more powerful than mortal experience can elicit. The largest panel encapsulating half the painting’s surface is an expansive and breathtakingly apocalyptic sky. The space is eerily grey, populated by clouds that reflect the orange colour of the fire below. The burning rope floats above the horizon delineated by a band of dark pigment to denote the mass of land below. The foreground panel is a complex web of cracked and dry earth, devoid of life.Storrier here contemplates the insignificance of humankind when compared to the awesome magnitude of the natural world. He draws upon the symbolism of the fading light of dusk as a metaphor for change and the transformative and irreversible power of fire.


1. Tim Storrier cited in Lumby, C., Tim Storrier, The Art of the Outsider, Craftsman House, NSW, 2000, pp.17,18

2. Wilson, G., Elemental Reckoning - The Art of Tim Storrier 1981 - 2011, Jam Press, Eglinton, 2011, p.19-20

3. ibid, p.20

Alison Burns BA (Hons); MA

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