Untitled Ensemble series #3, 1990
oil on canvas
Nancy Hoffman Gallery, New York
Mori Gallery, Sydney
Private collection, Perth
In her early series R.S.V.P. and Ensemble, Susan Norrie was inspired by US artist Robert Rauschenberg’s use of found images screen-printed onto his paintings of the early 1960s. Often incorporating three dimensional objects, these were some of Rauschenberg’s most important works. Screen-printing allowed him to combine media imagery, signs, fabric patterns, etc, in works that were influential on other artists, including Andy Warhol. In her own take on this technique, Norrie selected three or four images - a group of children studying music, a whistling boy, etc - and built the series around them. She also used decorative motifs derived from ironwork and fabric to tie together the figurative elements.
In the pink-toned Ensemble #1 the music students dominate, with decorative flourishes also quite visible. Ensemble #3 is a more experimental work, with the music students central and the balance of the painting an exercise in screened textures. It is harder to see - ie, grasp the essential imagery - than Ensemble #1, but is quite beautiful nonetheless. The surface is dry, but unlike #1 it appears never to have been varnished. In this way it reads a little like the surfaces in her 1989-90 series of paintings Peripherique, which was inspired by her stay in France after winning the Moet & Chandon Award in 1987.
The Ensemble series was first shown in Susan Norrie’s 1992 solo exhibition at Nancy Hoffman Gallery, New York.” (thanks to John Cruthers)
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.