10. TIM STORRIER
Tim Storrier was twenty-nine when he painted the present work. Still a young artist by most standards, he had already won his first major award, the Sulman Prize, at the age of just nineteen becoming the youngest artist to ever do so. The accolades and accomplishments did not abate during his twenties, cementing his position as a leading Australian painter. These include an Art Gallery of New South Wales administered residency in Vence, France, and inclusion in the Australian Landscape exhibition at Expo 1974 held in Spokane, Washington. At home, this recognition was bolstered through his representation by leading commercial galleries from the outset of his career.1 Thus by the age of twenty nine, when many artists are still finding their feet, Storrier had reached a level of professional success and was entering his mature phase as an artist.
A prodigious chronicler of the vast Australian landscape, Storrier sometimes infuses it with metaphoric subtext through the inclusion of a personal iconography he has developed over his career. The most well known of this symbolic language of objects are burning ropes and logs which hint at the sublime and universal. The present work was created before the development of this enigmatic language, and instead focused his then growing attention on one of the most artistically interrogated aspects of the Australian landscape – its epic vastness and sense of space.
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.2
The relevance of this statement made by Storrier to author Linda Van Nunen is perceived when viewing the present work. Here, an awe-inspiring aerial view of outback Australia implicitly references travel, as only by air can such a view be attained. Thus the spectacle of the Australian outback is powerfully rendered by Storrier from the perspective of someone moving over it at a great height and speed.
This relates to one of the major thematic preoccupations of Storrier’s art that he continues to work with – human exploration. Notions surrounding travel and exploration underpin his series of works from the early 1980s that feature horse saddles and refer to surveyors in their titles. It is also seen in his recent depictions of faceless explorers set within desert landscapes that conduct a kind of metaphysical survey, such as The Histrionic Wayfarer (after Bosch) with which he won the Archibald Prize in 2012.
Storrier employs a light palette of warm earthy and pastel hues, evoking the bright, bleached colouration of a landscape dominated by heat and sun. Lumby asserts this palette was influenced by a West Coast aesthetic that Storrier was exposed to during his travels to the United States of America in 1977.3 It is also evident in other works of this period, such as those based on his travels to Egypt which feature often surreal representations of this heat-struck foreign terrain, with the occasional ancient architectural structure.
There is something almost other-worldly about the arid Australian interior seen in The Illusion (Distance from Above). It’s as though from this great height - where all familiar markers vanish - we could be looking at the surface of Mars. Even the scudding clouds appear far below as they cast their shadows on the arid interior, which is interrupted by rhythmic lines indicating rivulets and channels. The large scale of the painting physically impresses itself upon the viewer, and further engenders the bodily, sensory and psychological impact of work.
Storrier’s depiction of Australia’s vastness allows enough space and room for the viewer’s mind to wander. A stage for dreams indeed, it is this quality which remains one of the most engaging aspects of the artist’s work, one which he established early in his career, and which continues to bring him acclaim and notoriety.
1. Lumby, C., Tim Storrier: The Art of the Outsider, Craftsman House, 2000, pp.11-13
2. Van Nunen, L., Point to Point: The Art of Tim Storrier, Craftsman House, Sydney, 1987, p.23
3. Lumby, C., Tim Storrier: The Art of the Outsider, Craftsman House, 2000, p.20
Marguerite Brown MA ArtCur