Menzies Art Brands



As he marks his three score years and ten, Tim Storrier can look back at a lifetime of achievement to which many aspire but few achieve in the arts. He made a spectacular entry into the profession as the youngest ever winner of the Sulman Prize and has built on that over fifty years, producing work that has found both critical and commercial success while always pursuing his own individual vision as a painter, printmaker, and latterly, a sculptor. Storrier has always managed to work against the prevailing trends and fashions, while producing work that seemed entirely fitting and appropriate for the times in which it was made. He was fortunate that two early friends and mentors happened to be the most influential artists of their respective generations, John Olsen (born 1928) and Brett Whiteley (1939-1992). While Storriers student work carried echoes of the latter, he quickly developed his own way of working and a personal suite of subjects and themes. Few artists have managed to take an almost obsessively skilful technique and marry it to a grand vision of surreal and highly imaginative landscape images. It was from Russell Drysdale (1912-1981) that Storrier took his first inspiration, finding resonances of his own childhood in Drysdales interpretations of the countrys empty interior, a place of wide horizons and huge skies. Instead of peopling his landscapes with rough-hewn and homely outback characters, Storrier chose instead to create mystical arrangements of artificial and symbolic constructions the burning rope, abandoned surveyors equipment and the lost artefacts of a defeated explorer. Storrier has a capacity to render with meticulous care and accuracy scenes that are both natural and fantastical at the same moment we can picture, and even smell and hear, the crackle of flame on the stretched rope, but also know it is purely an invention of the artist and not some outback totem left by a vanished tribe. The incongruous, lost objects that litter Storriers paintings do have a real place in the artists memory, like many motifs taken from the recesses of memory. As a boy I would sift through the detritus of old sites, camps of cast-off equipment and general rubbish, always searching for an elusive and old gauge, a tin toy or a piece of a forgotten machine the searches of the pre-plastic rubbish heaps had all the adventure and excitement of an adult archaeological dig.1

Tim Storriers technique is flawless, able to capture incredible detail across a vast canvas with compositions that are grand in both conception and execution. Many of his works are on a heroic scale and depict the vastness of the land, sky and occasionally the sea. He has travelled the world, from Egypt to Antarctica, gaining a feel for the earth in all its different manifestations. He is constantly dealing with the elemental forces of nature, of earth, fire, air and water. Having grown up on the vast Western Plains of New South Wales, the big sky is always the dominant force in his work. The intricate patterns of sunlit clouds stretch across the canvas, while at other times it will be a million stars of a deep night sky in a composition where he has painted every one as an individual pinprick of light shining from behind the canvas. One passion Storrier has shared with John Olsen is a feeling for poetry. They have discussed it at length and Olsen was able to introduce the young artist to a wide range of authors and poets, works to feed the imagination and the soul. A sometimes lonely and difficult childhood, which saw the young Storrier despatched to boarding school in Sydney, far from home and family on the other side of the Blue Mountains, fed a natural introspection that continues to surface in his art. 1I really paint what I grew up with. They are pictures that have to do with poetry and nature. The choice of subject quite often has to do with ones reflective mood. There are times when it is deeply satisfying to paint the night sky and other times when that doesnt feel appropriate usually that has to do with circumstances, or mood, or what one is going through emotionally.2

Storrier has never ceased to experiment and ring the changes on his inventory of subjects. The low burning piles of embers of an outback fire are enlivened with the swirling ashes of burnt newspapers, turbulent ocean waves carry garlands of flowers which at other times sweep through the night sky, tracing the track of sun and moon. One recent group of works uses the motif of the simple paper dart, the classroom construction of generations of schoolboys that realises the miracle of flight. One sheet of paper, artfully folded can streak across a room toward an unwitting target, or in the outdoors fly a hundred metres when launched from a high vantage point. Old History is one of a number of works completed over more than a decade that use this magical toy, enlarged to monumental scale and redolent with mystery and meaning. Storriers dart is not the captive of the classroom, but soars in the stratosphere above the clouds, winging its way to outer space. Never afraid of grand scale, Storrier has lifted the humble dart to something majestic, a supersonic jetliner or perhaps the star destroyer from the Star Wars movies. But as our ship glides through the upper air all is not well, with a blackened burn mark creeping along the trailing edge of the delta wing. In some versions of the composition flames flare out, echoing the burning rope thousands of feet below on the desert floor. It is perhaps a warning, a reminder that pride cometh before a fall, or less ominously, simply the childhood prank of lighting the dart just before its launch to mimic some downed Nazi flyer or Japanese raider over Pearl Harbour. The feel and mood of military aviation is deliberate, the artist taking cues to his illustrative style from the richly illustrated boxes used for plastic model aircraft kits which he, like most boys of his generation, were excited by in the late 1950s. These elaborate illustrations, most notably those of the American company Revell, with their beautifully rendered aircraft and skies were an inspiration to many young would-be artists of the time.

In this intricately realised painting, where literally thousands of words are spread across the page, the artist has added his own hand written messages, designed to further tease and intrigue the viewer. A date and title are clearly written in the artists hand, along with a set of oriental characters adding another mystery to be solved. The title carries an oblique reference to post-modernism, obscure and unfathomable like the concept itself. While ostensibly a page from the Boys Own Paper, the advertisements and pictures on the printed page in fact clearly reference another of Storriers major works of the same period, the monumental bronze The Grand Impedimenta. The exploring artist in that work is also the subject of Storriers Archibald winning painting of 2012, The Histrionic Wayfarer [After Bosch]. We see the artists hat, goggles, water bag, flag, palette and paint box, as well as his distinctive trousers, are all advertised ready for purchase. Just to make sure, there is a saddle, the artists indispensable accoutrement, as well as the long leather boots sported by the Histrionic Wayfarer himself. Other images make direct reference to the artists work, with an outback tank full of water, ready to douse the fire encroaching on its edges and an image of the pyramids, an echo of Storriers installations made at Giza thirty years before. For the viewer it creates many conflicting thoughts the grand scale and sheer power of the giant aircraft draw the eye, but then one is seduced by the intricate detail and close-up reading of the content on the page. As one is drawn into the stories, we almost forget that all this detail is rendered painstakingly with a brush, not simply run off on the press. The loving detail of the coffee stains, the menace of ads for guns, photographs of fighter planes and mug shots of gangsters all combine to produce stories and images of nostalgia and mystery in a work guaranteed to linger in the memory.


1. Tim Storrier, quoted in Klepac, L. Tim Storrier, Beagle Press, Sydney, 2018, p.188
2. op.cit. p. 36

Gavin Fry

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