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TIM STORRIER Reflected Night


'I never work from photographic documents. I work from memory. Whether I’m painting a bottle or a sunset, it has more to do with mood, memory and the distillation of time than realism'.1 

 A technical virtuoso with paint, Tim Storrier’s works are flawless incarnations of his memory-scapes. Though Storrier has explored a variety of imagery in his work, it is the Australian landscape which is his crucible. For almost half a century he has largely sought to capture his personal reaction to the landscape. Storrier’s iconography is a synthesis of real and imagined fragments of his own experience. A sprawling bushfire is expertly manifested along the horizontal plane of the painting as though the flames were licking along the canvas itself; the glowing hot coals a triumph of illusion. Storrier’s expansive skies, whether they enact the intense light of the Australian sun by day, or the star spangled infinity of the night sky are poetic in their realism, hauntingly beautiful and evocative. 

Storrier’s work does not easily give up a motif; it is reworked over and over again, reinvented and refined. In Storrier’s words; ‘It’s a bit like the work of a poet. You don’t finish anything while you continue to address ideas that concern you.’2 Among the diverse subjects that make up Storrier’s oeuvre, the landscapes devoted to the representation of fire have emerged as his most iconic and commercially successful. Storrier’s fire paintings had their genesis in 1981 in the outback documentation of burning objects. First a burning outline of a human form, then a burning rope, a burning log, a burning carcass, it feels 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 works.

A nocturnal painting, Reflected Night exemplifies Storrier’s impressive ability to capture the intricate details of the fire itself and to fuse real and imagined fragments of his own experience. Here Storrier seeks to capture the vast and featureless landscape and to explore the aesthetic beauty of the fire itself. The painting is a series of expertly realised 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 bejeweled night sky. The creation of this skyline is deceptively complex and technical. Nothing is left to chance or whimsy. In Storrier’s words; ‘It would be lovely to get a brush and flick it. And you would think that would work, wouldn’t you? I mean, you get a random splatter that would look like stars. But I’ve tried it, it doesn’t work. It just doesn’t work, it looks like splatter. So the only way I can do it is actually, you build it up. You start from dark to light. You start with blue stars and bring them up to white. Glaze them back; bring them up to white again. Glaze them back... so it’s a... technically, it’s very, very traditional.’3

The lower portion of the painting’s surface is divided into a further two panels, earth and water, completing the four classical elements. The flames lick along the giant glowing embers of a giant mass that has been devoured by the fire. This gives the painting a sense of movement as the flames are at their most ferocious on the left side of the picture plane. The strong horizontal tension enacted by the glowing embers and roaring flames that devour the foreground of the picture plane recalls Storrier’s acclaimed ‘point to point’ paintings from the eighties which depicted long burning ropes. In Reflected Night, Storrier’s representation of fire is more reflective and subdued than the very direct representations in his earlier work. The whole scene, land and sky is reflected in the expanse of water that completes the metaphysical resonance of the complete work.


1. Tim Storrier cited in Zimmer, J. & McGregor, K. (2009), Tim Storrier Moments, in response to memories and ideas of mortality, Macmillan Art Publishing, Melbourne, p.42

2. Zimmer, J. & McGregor, K. (2009), Tim Storrier Moments, in response to memories and ideas of mortality, Macmillan Art Publishing, Melbourne, p.11

3. Tim Storrier cited in interview with Virginia Trioli for the ABC’s Sunday Arts in 2009

Alison Burns BA (Hons); MA

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