Exacting Beauty, 2013
oil on canvas
signed, dated and titled 'Susan Norrie/Exacting Beauty 2013' (on the reverse)
Private collection, Sydney
Around 2000, Norrie began to make images about human resilience, survival and hope. This was her response to the episodes of environmental and humanitarian catastrophe that she saw re-shaping the delicate ecosystems around us. These concerns took her to Tokyo in 2002 to document the cherry blossom season, which sprung earlier than usual that year. The imagery she sourced in Tokyo provided inspiration for this series of Cherry Blossom paintings, begun in 2011.
The series is influenced by Marcel Duchamp and Andy Warhol and the many hats these artists wore. Particularly important to the series is Duchamp’s term ‘cinematic blossoming’ which describes the unfolding of different optical illusions at once; the fusing of multiple 2D images to expand what we see, from the plane of a single image into deep space, like petals from the centre of a bud, or like a video camera allowing an image to evolve in a static shot; and, Warhol’s concept of ‘rupture’ – essentially a cultural hernia where mass produced images spill into the visual fabric of the world and vice versa.
This work combines photographic silkscreen painting, embodying repeated gesture and factory-like labour, and meticulous hand painting. Norrie sees multiple images, fast shutter speeds and ‘many frames per second’ as the basis of image making in our times: a direct reflection of how we absorb the world.
Though she was working towards the power of the full series when installed in sequence, her images aren’t multiples. Each is unique and has been scrupulously made. The impossibly thick black stencil has been applied countless times and the hand painting is carefully nuanced. Norrie’s image belongs to the quick currency of the digital world, yet her meditation on how it is translated back to us, marries the fast and the slow: the quickness of media saturation and the stillness of artistic contemplation.
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.