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Australian art

Contemporary art

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Susan Norrie


01 Jul 1953 -


'Ensemble' exemplifies Susan Norrie's transition from pure painting to work that combined painting and display methodologies in the early 1990s. It demonstrates her interest in creating hybrid works, moving beyond the two-dimensional painted plane to incorporate crafted objects and three-dimensional structures.

The work consists of a thickly painted wall construction, acting as a shelving unit for three small canvases that embody the three types of painting Norrie was exploring at this time. The largest canvas presents an abstract painting; the next a more representational white powder puff form, loosely inspired by the depiction of fabric and fripperies in 18th century French painting. The final canvas presents an almost schematic portrait of 'a whistling Joe'. This early 20th century automated doll, which whistles when wound up, acts as a colloquial metaphor for wasting time – a common anxiety about art practice particularly when artists are commercially unsuccessful.

Norrie considers 'Ensemble' to have a memorial or commemorative function, one which has personal references to death and transition; however, it also refers to the much touted 'death of painting' in the 1980s when some theorists thought painting an exhausted and invalid art form. Aligned with Norrie's postmodern approach, the work stems from her critical exploration of the history of painting and art as a consumer product, and highlights her ambivalent relationship to painting.




Media category

Mixed media painting

Materials used

3 wall units and 3 small canvases: oil, wood and canvas


204.0 x 82.0 x 19.0 cm left, centre & right panels; 60.0 x 40.0 x 3 cm panel d; 20.0 x 20.5 x 3.0 cm panel e; 20.0 x 20.5 x 3.0 cm panel f


Gift of Charles Genocchio on behalf of the Chiu and Genocchio families, in memory of Samuel Genocchio 2011


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Susan Norrie

Works in the collection


Shown in 1 exhibition

Exhibition history

  • Temporal frames, Ivan Dougherty Gallery, Paddington, 04 Aug 1990–01 Sep 1990

Referenced in 2 publications


Charles Green, Peripheral vision: Contemporary Australian art 1970-94, Drummoyne, 1995, 90.

Julian Perfanis, Temporal frames, Sydney, 1990, (colour illus., detail).