Susan Norrie

Object D'Art, 1988
oil on canvas
100.0 x 400.0 cm

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Mori Gallery, Sydney
Private collection, Sydney

'Object D'Art', Mori Gallery, Sydney, 1988, cat. 8

As Norrie explains in her title, this opulent painting is also an objet d’art, a market commodity valued for its beauty. She proposes that this image inspired by ikebana arrangement, overlaid with stenciled flowers in gold, red and green, is a decoration that would enhance the interior design of an equally opulent home.

The mysterious oil painting, where subjects disappear and re-emerge under veils of paint, creates a compelling argument for the magical aura of the highly desirable art object. It belongs to a series of twelve works Norrie painted in Sienna, Italy in the Bicentennial year. The beauty of this series and its overwhelming exploration of the decorative are characteristically counterpoised by darker, more contentious cerebral notes.

At the time, Norrie was one of many Australian artists concerned with neo-colonial culture in the 1980s. This decadent series was paradoxically a study of social realism for Norrie, who was looking at cultural transference, identity, place and history – and, thinking about what 1980s doctrines of style, which fetishised the oriental and exotic, said about our culture.

In her investigation she concluded that the ‘touchstones of the master-work, truth and beauty’ are shared between art and decoration. In her Objet d’Art paintings she developed a language that boldly showed this strong link, listing its elements as ‘lacquers, stencils, screen, surface, patina, cartouches.’ This visual language continued to articulate her interest in high and low, inside and outsider cultures throughout history.

  • Object D'Art

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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.