Susan Norrie

Multiple Series, 1992
oil on canvas, 6 panels
20.6 x 26 cm each
each panel signed, inscribed and dated ‘1/6 (2/6, 3/6, 4/6, 5/6, 6/6) Multiple Series/Susan Norrie/1992 oil on canvas’ (on the reverse of each panel)

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Mori Gallery, Sydney
Acquired from the above by the present owner

The Multiple Series (1992) consists of six paintings of the same banknotes rendered in six different impressions. The note in question is the five pound note of the Republic of Biafra, a short-lived West African state that seceded from Nigeria in 1967, sparking a civil war. From 1967-70, approximately 2.5 million Biafran civilians, most of them children, died of starvation due to the Nigerian naval blockade. Despite the support of several European and African nations, Biafra surrendered in January 1970 and rejoined Nigeria.  

Susan Norrie produced this series by painting in oil over screen-printed images of banknotes onto canvas. Having already experimented with stencils in larger paintings, Norrie’s mix of screen-printing and painting explores themes of consumerism and mass-production, while also challenging the traditional notion of prints and multiples in a series. By selecting banknotes – which, by their nature, are printed in bulk – Norrie is in a sense printing her own currency onto the canvases. But by painting over the top of the prints and creating significant variation and uniqueness in each image, she challenges the idea that one print is the same as another, emphasising differences in colour, texture and shading. 

Norrie completed several Multiple Series, including a much larger Equivalence (Multiple Series) (1992), which consisted of 100 works of other banknotes that were displayed as a grid but sold in smaller groups. These banknotes included the Bank of the Congo in the 1960s as well as concentration camp coupons issued to prisoners in Nazi Germany in the 1930s-40s. The common theme of all the Multiple Series works is the economies of failed states or empoverished and destitute peoples as a comment on the way in which consumer culture and money are indifferent to human life. In contrast to the larger series, however, this group of six paintings is more coherent, all being of the same banknote image and limited to a precise and complete edition.

  • Multiple Series

Image courtesy of the artist

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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 cynical comments on consumerism found in her series 'Tall Tales and True' (1986-1987) and 'Peripherique' (1989); 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.

The beauty of all these works, whether it be painting, drawing, installation or video is Norrie's wonderful power over surface texture and material. 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. It was the winning of the first Moet & Chandon prize for an artist under 35 that was a pivotal point in her career, and her work has been exhibited in many international and national surveys of contemporary art. Norrie's work has been written on extensively and is held in all state and most regional gallery collections of Australia.