Distant Night 2019
Tim Storrier’s burning logs are among the most recognisable motifs in Australian contemporary art. They dominate his oeuvre and have brought him immense critical and commercial acclaim both in Australian and internationally.
The idea to paint burning objects under the night sky was born one evening on an outback trip in 1981. Struck by sudden inspiration, the 32-year-old Storrier jammed steel posts into the arid dirt, tied a rope between them and set it alight, and with it sparked the rest of his career. Forever enigmatic, Storrier insists he cannot recall why he decided to do it or where the concept came from.1 These mysterious origins are a reminder of the highly personal nature of the process of making art.
Distant Night is a truly impressive and exemplary painting, grand in both execution and scale. The placement of the log in the lower left of the composition works to hero the night’s sky. Immense and visually spectacular skies have always been a dominant force in Storrier’s work, having grown up in the vast Western Plains of New South Wales. This awareness of space, low horizons and infinite skies demonstrates Storrier’s affinity with the Australian landscape. Edmund Capon, former director of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, aptly said, “[these paintings] could not, I believe, have come from any country other than Australia.”2 It is true that very few artists convey the enormity of the Australian outback more poignantly than Storrier.
Storrier is one of very few late twentieth-century artists to explore the landscape in such detail, as the genre was dominated in the first half of the century by Australian artistic heavyweights such as Arthur Streeton (1867-1943), Tom Roberts (1856-1931), Arthur Boyd (1920-1999) and Sidney Nolan (1917-1992). Rather than let this history intimidate him, Storrier brought the tradition into a contemporary context by creating his own unique visual language. Instead of the narrative-driven landscapes of his predecessors, he combined realistic rendering with surreal imagery to create these mysterious nocturnal scenes. His works are accurate representations of the Australian outback yet simultaneously have an obvious mystical quality. Storrier’s burning logs and dazzling skies are now iconic imagery in our nation’s contemporary visual culture and have carved a significant place for the artist within the longstanding tradition of Australian landscape painting.
1. Lumby, C., Tim Storrier: The Art of the Outsider, Craftsman House, Sydney, 2000, p.45
2. Capon, E., cited in Lumby, C., Tim Storrier: The Art of the Outsider, Craftsman House, Sydney, 2000, p.8
Asta Cameron BA, MA (Art Curatorship)