Behind the Scenes Unmasked, 2022
gouache on paper
29.5 x 42 cm (sheet); 38.5 x 50.6 cm (frame)
signed, dated and titled 'Susan Norrie/2022/Behind the/Scenes/Unmasked' (on the reverse)
When I am confronted by human suffering, I often escape into the world of make believe.
Recently, I’ve found myself returning to the world of Disney and have become fascinated with a series of photographs taken behind the scenes at Disneyland from the 1960s: especially those images of employees abandoning their props, taking off their masks, costumes and suits… the moment between being ‘in character’ and stepping away from fantasy and back into the mundane everyday world.
Today, Disney is a massive corporation. Its worldwide entertainment business – from theme parks, movies to broadcast media – plays upon and exploits the human need to escape a world of despair made more confronting by war, man-made and natural disasters, and challenging socio-political circumstances. Disneyland maybe an enchanting, fun and wondrous place to visit, but equally it is a sombre reflection upon the fragility of the human condition.
Image courtesy of the artist
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.