Art+

Many artists are described as ‘award winning,’ and in the case of painter Tim Storrier it’s true. The Sydney-born artist has won most of the prizes coveted by painters, including: the Sulman Prize (twice), the Archibald Prize, the Archibald Prize Packing Room Prize, and the Doug Moran National Portrait Prize. At 69, Storrier is still prolific and his new work can be seen in Brisbane at Phillip Bacon Galleries, 28 August – 22 September, and at Sydney Contemporary, 13-16 September. In the foreword to his monograph, Tim Storrier, reproduced with permission below, author Lou Klepac sums up Storrier’s impressive career in the context of two other well known Australian artists: John Olsen and Brett Whiteley.

Tim Storrier: Foreword
by Lou Klepac

Tim Storrier’s career already spans fifty years, beginning from when at the age of nineteen he was awarded the 1968 Sulman Prize by David Strachan. It precipitated the career of the fledgling artist into the mystery of the art world and a life devoted to painting.

Today Storrier is a consummate and acclaimed artist with a considerable oeuvre, and several books already published on his work. Looking at his achievement it is now possible to see where he might fit in Australian art within the period in which he has been active.

Tim Storrier, Evening, 1995–96, acrylic on canvas, 183 x 305 cm, signed and dated lower right, insc. with title, image courtesy of Menzies Art Brands.

The easiest way to classify him is to consider him together with two other painters, with a not dissimilar direction, and with whom he was connected by friendship and circumstances: John Olsen and Brett Whiteley. All three are linked by a historical thread and by their devotion to the Australian landscape. Each one of them has added an important chapter with a New South Wales perspective, to the great tradition of landscape painting which originated in Victoria. Working within the canons of twentieth century painting, they have extended our knowledge not only of the Australian landscape but of the possibilities of the art of painting. And they added their exploration to what they had inherited from the past: Olsen from Passmore, Whiteley from Rees and Storrier from Lambert.

It is possible to view the connection between these three painters to that of three important British artists who are often grouped together: Francis Bacon, Frank Auerbach and Lucian Freud.

All three were lifelong friends (and sometimes rivals) who were united by their devotion to figurative painting, in a period when painting was still under the spell of abstraction. In art history they are often classed together, though their works are dissimilar.

Like the three British painters, Olsen, Whiteley and Storrier are equally introspective about the nature of painting. Although there are other important threads that bind them as friends, more important was the relationship of the two older artist with the taciturn younger Storrier. Their work does not depend on each other, but one important connection between them is the knot of generations. Olsen was born in 1928, Whiteley in 1939 and Storrier in 1949, which means that they straddle different periods and attitudes to art of both the public and art critics. Because of the age difference, it was easier for Storrier to be accepted by the two older artists, who helped and encouraged the efforts of the younger artist’s potential. At an early period Storrier was a near neighbour of Whiteley in Lavender Bay and took over the gasworks studio from him. Olsen was particularly encouraging; he invited Storrier to join him on his trip to Lake Eyre and in 2000 wrote a discerning review of Storrier’s work for the foreword to Catharine Lumby’s book on the artist.

Tim Storrier, Shelter at the Edge of the Plain, 1992, acrylic on canvas, 153 x 244 cm, signed and dated lower right, insc. with title, private collection.

All three left Australia at an early age in order to extend their experience and to escape what might have appeared a provincial environment. For all three, going away proved vital for their careers and future direction. It changed the course of Whiteley’s life; for the other two, it was an important period of investigation and soul searching. When they returned home, they rediscovered Australia. The distance they had established from the land of their birth allowed them to see it in a new light. For all three coming home was a revelation. The Australian landscape became important to each and in establishing a rapport with it, they began a lifelong trajectory of discovery that enriched their work and life.

Though connected by a logical historical evolution, the three artists worked independently of each other and their work developed along different lines. But one similarity is that all three could think in epic terms and were prepared to attempt paintings on a heroic scale.

To paint on an ambitious scale means that the artist is prepared to take risks, but it is also an indication of the artist’s confidence in his technical ability.

However, a large painting requires more than technical ability; it needs to be infused with an original vision in order to make the painting relevant, dynamic and eventually have a life of its own.

Whiteley’s career was cut short (it was Storrier whom the police called to identify Whiteley when he was found dead in Thirroul). Olsen is the grand old man of Australian painting, proving that it is possible to be at the peak of one’s intellectual abilities in old age. Storrier is an indefatigable painter with a strict routine devoted to work. Since the last book on his work was published in 2009, he has been awarded the Archibald Prize in 2012, as well as the Moran National Portrait Prize in 2017. He has already advanced further in his determination to get under the skin of the art of painting. It is not easy to keep up with him – he is now also making sculpture.

Tim Storrier can be purchased online from Beagle Press.

Tim Storrier
Philip Bacon Galleries
28 August – 22 September

Sydney Contemporary 2018
Carriageworks
13 – 16 September

Book Extract