Interior Water signed 'Storrier' lower right acrylic on canvas 122.0 x 198.5cm (48 1/16 x 78 1/8in). signed and titled on stretcher bar verso
PROVENANCE The estate of the late Mr George Oden Jennings, New South Wales
Throughout history, the interior desert country has been an irresistible magnet for artists accompanying surveyors and explorers on their great expeditions. In Australia, these often- futile voyages of discovery embarked upon with unbridled fervor and optimism and led by blind ambition, invariably ended in tragedy and ruin. In the case of Ludwig Leichhardt who ventured out from Darling Downs to make a great arc across the continent to the West Australian coastline, all that was left was a random series of trees marked with an "L", a brass nameplate (now in the National Museum of Australia) and a rifle butt. Sometimes, if the expeditions were successful, great mythologies sprang up and surveyors such as Major Mitchell and Sir John Forrest became heroes. This mental and physical voyage into the interior, and what is left behind after the toil, has become the constant thread throughout the work of Australia's modern day painter traveller, Tim Storrier. His iconography often includes the detritus of an abandoned camp or the remains of a deserted structure in the middle of nowhere. Indeed he has made a career painting the paraphernalia of expeditions such as a saddle, its rider long gone and the horse absent.
From his first Sulman Prize-winning entry in 1968, Suzy 350, which depicted a motorcycle crash on the periphery of civilization, Storrier was irrevocably interested in that place where humanity has tackled landscape and has been overcome by nature's dominance. Internal Water is part of an ongoing investigation for Storrier into man's pathological need to build structures and edifices within an often inhospitable and unlikely territory. The enduring image of an empty brick rhomboid-shaped structure in the sand emerged in his work during the early 1970s and found significant expression after his first tour to the Arizona desert and the Middle East in 1972. Each journey lead to a group of works imbued with a nagging sense that man's longing for permanence in a landscape, which nature erodes and at times destroys, was inevitable but futile. In 1984 Storrier returned to the Sinai Desert resulting in his landmark show at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Ticket to Egypt, which included some of his most philosophical landscapes. The material about transience, memory, history, humanity and the transformative qualities of fire gleaned on this trip laid down the groundwork for a remarkable body of work that followed. Internal Water is in some ways the counterpoint to his much-lauded Burning of the Gifts series where everything was sent on fire. The empty void in the cracked desert landscape overseen by the twilight sky is a metaphor for many things. Taken literally it is a well in the desert providing water and life, purification and respite from an uncompromising land. Metaphorically, Internal Water alludes to notions of the abyss, endlessness, human psyche and ultimately the subconscious of dreams and memories. As Storrier reflected in 1994, "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 with realism."