Important Australian + International Fine Art
10 April 2019


born 1949

synthetic polymer paint on linen

152.0 x 305.0 cm

signed lower right: Storrier
signed, dated and inscribed with title verso 'Starlight over the Plain' / (Night Coals) / Storrier / 2008

$200,000 – 300,000
Sold for $195,200 (inc. BP) in Auction 57 - 10 April 2019, Sydney

Philip Bacon Galleries, Brisbane (label attached verso)
Private collection, Queensland
Deutscher and Hackett, Melbourne, 24 April 2013, lot 25
Savill Galleries, Sydney (label attached verso, as ‘Starlight on the plains (Night Coals)’)
Private collection, United Kingdom


A Connoisseur’s Collection, Savill Galleries, Sydney, 15 November – 10 December 2014, cat. 7 (as ‘Starlight on the Plains (Night Coals)’)


Capon, E., Wright, W., Zimmer, J. and McGregor, K., Tim Storrier: Moments, Macmillan Art Publishing, Melbourne, 2009, pp. 11, 14-15 (illus. as ‘Starlight on the Plains (Night Coals)’)
Artonview, National Gallery of Australia, no. 81, Autumn 2015, p. 61 (illus.)
Gripper, A., ‘Artist’s Pad’, Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney, 18 January 2014 (illus.)

Catalogue text

‘My affinity for the Australian landscape has to do with a sense of place, which is both physical and emotional, and the fact that l always know where I am’.1

Paradoxically one of the country’s most popular yet simultaneously elusive artists, Tim Storrier first captured the imagination of the art world during the eighties with his signature images of burning ropes set against expansive parched desert plains and vast skies powerfully evoking the essence of the Australian landscape. Drawing inspiration from the great Romantic painters of the nineteenth century such as JMW Turner and Caspar David Friedrich, his landscapes not only contemplated the insignificance of humankind when compared with the awesome magnitude of the natural world, but inevitably encouraged darker, more pessimistic readings with his abandoned campsites and smouldering embers suggesting themes of displacement, isolation and decay.

While continuing this interest in the four elements and the power of life which they embody, Starlight Over the Plain (Night Coals), 2008 nevertheless reveals a significant shift in the artist’s vision during the opening decade of the new millennium. Where previously his interpretations had been literal and direct, now his treatment is more subdued, reflective and abstract, with fire (the burning logs positioned lower left) occupying an almost secondary role to the dazzling celestial sky and billowing, voluminous clouds that cast long shadows upon the expansive plain below. Elegant and minimalist, indeed the nocturnal scene offers an arguably more sophisticated exploration of the emotive, melancholic mood that has always pervaded Storrier’s oeuvre, drawing upon the symbolism of the fading light of day as a metaphor for change or the fin de siècle, end of an era. Similarly, the juxtaposition of fire with an entirely different great vastness here (infinite celestial skies and untraversed bodies of water), no doubt suggests further allusions to evolution, the passing of time and the grandeur of decay in the same vein as the traditional vanitas still life. As Storrier himself muses, '... there is a relationship between fecundity and mortality, between something that is wet and something that is burning. These are primal poetic qualities that do not change in terms of the human spirit’.2

Like the finest of Storrier’s achievements, Starlight Over the Plain (Night Coals) encompasses the subtlety of nature’s fugitive diurnal moods, its mysterious silently unfolding rituals and vast droning presence. Long-contemplated narratives inspired by the artist’s own experience of the landscape, such works feature among the most recognisable images in contemporary art today – evoking a sense of place that is inextricably Australian. As Edmund Capon, a former director of the Art Gallery of New South Wales writes, ‘…they could not I believe have come from any country other than Australia’.3

1. Storrier quote in Van Nunen, L., Point to Point: The Art of Tim Storrier, Craftsman House, Sydney, 1987
2. Storrier cited in Tim Storrier: The Burning Gifts, Australian Galleries, Melbourne, 1989, p. 11
3. Capon, E., cited in Lumby, C., Tim Storrier: The Art of the Outsider, Craftsman House, Sydney, 2000, p. 8