Susan Norrie

Peripherique (Rainbow Day), 1989
oil on canvas
240 x 189.6 cm
signed, dated and inscribed ‘Susan Norrie/PERIPHERIQUE/1989/(RAINBOW DAY)’ (on the reverse)

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The artist
Acquired from the above by the present owner

Susan Norrie – Peripherique, Wollongong City Gallery, Wollongong, 6 October -22 November 1989, cat. 13 or 14

The Peripherique series (1989) was named after the ring-road that encircles Paris’s inner city limits. Notorious for its confusing signage and its chaotic turnoffs and routes, Norrie’s paintings reflect the sense of being stuck on the outside, looking in on a central truth that remains tantalisingly out of reach. Completed only a few years after the death of her parents, Peripheriqueuses a quote from a Hallmark greeting card – “Have a Rainbow Day” – in a darkly ironic fashion. Stencilled onto the canvas in thick layers of paint, Peripherique has a sculptural quality to it. The decision to paint the whole work in white reflects the loss of innocence or purity, a theme to which Norrie frequently returns in her paintings. 

Peripherique (Rainbow Day)
 is a perfect reflection of what Victoria Lynn, curator of the Art Gallery of New South Wales’s 1994-95 survey of Norrie’s work, described as “the duel between the decorative and the decadent”. The inaugural winner of the prestigious Moet & Chandon Fellowship in 1987, Norrie spent time living and working in France and later in Italy. In this time, she continued to integrate the sublime with the profane (or the ridiculous), by elevating kitsch and cliché objects or phrases to the position of high art.

Other works from the Peripherique series – like Untitled, 1989 in the Art Gallery of New South Wales Collection – derive the texture and application of paint from the atmospheric effects of Turner or the Impressionists. But in Peripherique (Rainbow Day), Norrie quotes Pop and abstract expressionism, like the work of Jasper Johns, or the assemblages of Rosalie Gascoigne, so as to create a painting that feels sculptural or assembled. The use of stencilling refers in part to American post-war practice, but may also reflect the Japanese technique of katazome in fabric dyeing, which Norrie encountered in France as she considered the phenomenon of japonisme in her Objet d’Art series in 1988. This all forms part of Norrie’s reverence and deep engagement with the history of painting in all its forms.

  • Peripherique (Rainbow Day)

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Susan Norrie's preoccupation with politics and the environment have
always informed the subject matter of her work. From the feminist overtones of
her earlier series 'Lavished Living', (1983-1984) and 'Objet D'Art' (1988), to
her comments on consumerism found in her series 'Tall Tales and True'
(1986-1987) and 'Peripherique' (1989), or to the more recent video works
'Undertow' (2002) and the geologically and politically volatile view of
Indonesia documented in 'Havoc', seen at the 2007 Venice Biennale, Norrie’s
diverse oeuvre is challenging and, at times, polemical in its honest
deconstruction of modern society. 

After studying painting at the National Art School, Sydney and the National
Gallery School, Melbourne in the 1970s, Norrie began creating films and
installation pieces in the mid-1990s; works that blur the line between art and documentary.
The beauty of Norrie’s works – whether it be painting, drawing, installation or
video – is Norrie's control of media and materiality. The tactile quality of
her surfaces are often a contradictory experience to the harsh reality of the
stories she tells.

From the moment Norrie began exhibiting in 1982, her work has been
highly regarded for being both conceptually and materially advanced. In 1987, she
won the first Moet & Chandon prize for an artist under 35, which became a
pivotal point in her career. Since then, she has held residencies at Greene
Street Studio, New York, and in New Zealand and Germany. She received the 1997
Seppelt Prize, Contemporary Art Award, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney. In
1999 she received an Australia Council Fellowship, and in 2004 she received an
APA Scholarship for PhD Studies at the University of New South Wales, Sydney.

Norrie’s work has been exhibited in many international and national
surveys of contemporary art. She represented Australia at the 2007 Venice
Biennale, and has been in important group shows including the Montreal Biennale (2015); the Biennale of Sydney (2014, 2004); the Yokohama Triennale (2011); In the Balance: Art for a Changing World,
Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney (2010); and Figuring Landscapes, Tate Modern, London (2008). Norrie's work has been written on extensively and is held in all state and most regional gallery
collections of Australia, as well as in the Auckland City Art Gallery and the
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.