Susan Norrie

Untitled from 'Tall Tales and True', 1986
oil on plywood
91.5 x 91.5 cm
signed ‘Susan Norrie’ (lower left) and Susan No /‘86’ (lower right)


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In 1987 Susan Norrie won the inaugural Moët and Chandon Fellow with her painting ‘fête’, an image of Mickey Mouse cloaked in a 17th century costume from a Watteau painting, hanging amongst ‘confiscated museum and popular imagery in a blurry, “mix’n’match” sludge of high art, mass culture and individual production through which she signified the deliberate tragic frivolity of “modern times” (Charles Green, ‘Peripheral Vision’, 1995, p.86)

The 1986-1987 ‘Tall Tales and True’ series of sumptuous paintings by Susan Norrie are the most highly celebrated images of 1980s painting in Australia. How relevant they remain today.

In ‘Untitled’ the Disney figureheads of Mickey and Minnie Mouse are painted as bastions of the international consumer identity, in the provocative doubled image of Ronald and Nancy Regan. A pair wrapped blithely in the deliberate and tragic frivolity of modern times. Yet the reference to Norrie’s earlier paintings is still seen in the centre-ground, with another Mickey figure opening a curtain to the tradition of Australian landscape painting.

“Norrie observed that American imperialism, cultural colonialism and the history of its impact on Australian art informed the ‘Tall Tales and True’ series. Her paintings of this period included Disney figures such as Goofy and Mickey Mouse set amongst abstract expressionist blocks of colour and expressionist drips. They were infected by a ghoulish fascination with decay, kitsch and ‘fin-de-siècle’ ambivalence.” (Charles Green, op. cit., p.87)

From a small series of works mostly held in museum collections, we are very excited to be offering this work.

Mori Gallery, Sydney
Private collection, Sydney since 1986

'Tall Tales and True', Mori Gallery, Sydney, 1986
'Susan Norrie – Artist-in-Residence 1984', University Gallery, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, 15 October – 14 November 1986,

'Susan Norrie – Artist-in-Residence 1984', University Gallery, University of Melbourne, 1986, illust. p.17 (in black and white)

  • Untitled from 'Tall Tales and True'

View artist profile

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.