Tim Storrier is one of Australia’s most eminent painters. His figurative landscapes of fire, parched vistas and dripping carcasses speak of loss and the futility of the human condition. In 2013, Tim and wife Janet moved to Bowral’s historic Hopewood House, where Tim paints daily ‘like a man possessed’ while Janet oversees the care of the 1884 property and gardens. Tim spoke to ESH as his thoughts turn to a major show in 2020.
There have been several books written on you, Tim. Any plans to write your autobiography?
No. My lips always get tied when I write and I haven’t got around to that yet. You’d basically have to sit down for 12 months and concentrate and I think a lot of autobiographers tend to mould the information to make them look a bit better do they not?
Did you have a happy childhood?
Yes. I grew up on a farm called Yumgarlee near Wellington but I was quite an insular child so going away to boarding school at Shore in Sydney was rather a crash course in growing up.
Where did you discover your love of art?
My mother was a Sunday painter and I have clear memories of her painting when I was young so it was never a foreign thing in our house. My parents both encouraged me and there was no opposition when I wanted to go to the National Art School. But they were always worried about economic security.
In 1968 you were the youngest person at 19 ever to win the Sulman prize for your painting Suzy 350. What was it like to be feted from such a young age?
You are subjected to all sorts of curiosities and derisions but you got over that flattery very early, which is a very good lesson. They didn’t make the same sort of fuss back in those days and frankly it was a good thing. Also, I’ve still got no idea whether I deserved to win. They didn’t hang the exhibition because they were in the middle of renovations (at the AGNSW) so they only hung the pictures that won. I didn’t really have any body of work, it was just a one-off picture so it didn’t lead anywhere. That took many more years.
You’ve said in interviews before your work is based on your memories and reminisces?
It’s all an imaginary world. I didn’t grow up in one of my paintings. They are imaginary landscapes.
Tasmanian landscape painter Philip Wolfhagen once said that watching his works going off to a show is like watching the kids leave home. Do you recognise that sentiment?
Well, yes, you can be overly sentiment about that. We have bought back special works over the years, which financially can be hard. We got one back which was so large we couldn’t get it through the front door here so now it’s here in the gallery.
Hopewood House is now available as a wedding venue, and has four accommodation offerings to boot. You are also planning to open Hopewood’s gardens and gallery to the public in 2020. Do you find people who visit are also very curious to see you and your works?
People certainly come to visit the gallery and certainly anyone who comes here comes to the gallery to have a look at some pictures. It is a bit unusual.
You have said your work is interested in the detritus human beings leave than the people themselves .. is that why you feel so connected to Hopewood House?
Maybe but I’ve always just liked very old houses, I don’t particularly like modernism. This is the third old house that we’ve owned.
How do you pull off being well known but also living under the radar here?
I watched (Brett) Whiteley become restaurant recognised and it’s just a pain in the arse and I’ve never achieved that, thank goodness. But Whitely pursued it because he wore Vietcong pyjamas and flower brooches and did lots of posturing.
What is your daily art routine?
I work every day because if you don’t play golf you had better go to work. I go in to my studio and hide.
Tim Storrier at Philip Bacon Galleries opens at Hopewood House, Sept 12, 2020 and then at Philip Bacon Galleries, Brisbane Sept 15 – Oct 10.