Fire Dreaming - at the University Art Gallery

Throughout human history fire has been a powerful symbol for creation stories, spiritual meaning and human endeavours. The Olympic flame is just one contemporary example of the continuing power of a ritual involving fire that has a symbolic potency for human emotions.

Euan Macleod Fire Figure 1 2001 oil on canvas 51 x 38 cm

Euan Macleod Fire Figure 1, 2001 oil on canvas 51 x 38 cm

Fire Dreaming explored the theme of fire in contemporary art from cultural, historical, mythological and spiritual perspectives.

Fire Dreaming contained paintings and sculptures by ten artists: Tom Arthur, Arthur Boyd, David Boyd, Elisabeth Cummings, Euan Macleod, Tim Storrier, Maxie Tjampitjinpa, Hossein Valamanesh, Watjung Munungiritji and Bunungu Yunupingu.

The creation of fire and its connection with the spiritual world finds expression in Aboriginal beliefs, Christian biblical stories, Buddhism and ancient religions of Egypt and Iran, all of which are touched upon by the artists included. Three major paintings by Arthur Boyd explored the theme of fire and its relationship to divine or spiritual origins. These include his disturbing depictions of Nebuchadnezzar being punished by celestial fire sent by God and the ordeal of St Francis being tested by burning. Arthur Boyd's brother David Boyd was represented by his flaming Tree of Fire.

Several artists used their experience of witnessing bushfires in the Australian landscape to make highly charged expressive paintings.

Elisabeth Cummings's abstract painting After the Fire with its subtle nuances of tone and texture is a mediated response to the bush fire which claimed her bush studio in 1994.

Tim Storrier The Night Reflection 2003 acrylic on canvas 97.5 x 210 cm courtesy Sherman Galleries Sy

Tim Storrier The Night Reflection 2003 acrylic on canvas 97.5 x 210 cm courtesy Sherman Galleries Sydney

Euan Macleod's four paintings captured the lively and dramatic nuances of burning fires in eucalyptus landscapes near Bathurst NSW. Boyd, Macleod and Cummings are artists much admired for the expressive quality of their gestural brushwork and rich colours.

The theme of fire is especially relevant to Aboriginal artists. There were bark paintings made by senior law holders Bunungu Yunupingu and Watjung Munungiritji for the Gumatji Fire Dreaming, which were selected from the Macleay Museum's collection.

Tim Storrier is justifiably famous for his meticulous investigation of fire and its elemental fascination for humankind and surreal beauty portrayed in his painting illustrated below.

Lenders to the exhibition were the artists, their dealers and public collections including the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Artbank, and Bundanon Trust.