Australia Centre for Contemporary Art
15 August to 27 September 2009
David Noonan creates imagery that evokes a sense of the otherworldly where intimate moments of internal reflection intertwined with the performative in a filmic display of profound narrative. A heightened sense of ethereality is never far away from Noonan’s work and his exhibition at ACCA titled Senses explores movements between time and space, various states of the human consciousness and the sublime. ACCA’s voluminous exhibition space was the perfect location for this work which encompassed plywood cut-out figures located throughout the space as well as screen-printed collages of containing imagery of mime artists and theatre performers. The sheer height of the space, and the sisal matting that was laid over the floor provided the work with both a scale and an overt materiality that enveloped the spectator’s field of vision, imbuing the work with an aesthetic clarity that was at once awkward and poetic.
The screen-printed collages that are printed onto highly textural linen and jute cloth frame the space and act as allegorical vignettes frozen in time. Appropriating imagery from remnants of film, magazines and book archives, Noonan’s cut and paste strategy of image production has created photomontages that combine a cinematic quality with a dramatic play of light and shade. Towards the rear of the space a work presents a group of performers where one figure is dancing – her stance appearing incredibly gestural yet languid – whilst the others are in various states of embrace or highly stylised movement. There is an air of deliberateness to Noonan’s conceptualisation of this work as the edges of the printed cloth remain visible whilst multiple layers are superimposed over the top to give the work a heavily textural surface and a sense of visual depth. This handmade quality reinforces Noonan’s fascination with the fragmentary and often physical nature of creating collage.
One work in particular stood out for its sense of melancholy and sheer vividness. Situated towards the front of the space, a screen print of a female performer’s face sits almost quietly in the corner as other more dramatic gestures fill the space. Overlaid with two flatly printed rectangular panels of jute that exhibit a modernist geometric pattern and a black void that only displays her solitary right eye, we struggle to see what is underneath this metaphorical mask. All that remains are her eyes and her silhouette – a ghostly representation of something that once was there. Noonan renders this work with a heightened feeling of hopelessness as the subject’s presence all but fades away into the shadows, leaving behind only trace elements of her original self – identity is erased away and all that remains is mere façade.
There is a connection and conceptual dialogue between the figurative collage works and plywood sculptures that are sporadically located in the space. There is wonderful play on perspective as you walk amidst the wooden sculptures – as ghost-like figures intermingle with the spectator, caught in a moment in time. From front on, these figures appear decidedly flat and static captured in between movements or perhaps in deep contemplation. But as we move in and around these figures, equally sized plywood cut-outs attached onto the other side of the work become apparent – a visible doppelganger that encourages a visual double take. This sculptural simulacrum promotes a kind of surface play that provides the spectator with a slight frisson that is deeply unsettling yet entirely real.
The ability of the spectator to walk in and amongst the work may appear to acknowledge Bourriaud’s notion of the relational aesthetics as Noonan does not seek to perpetuate a kind of utopian reality, but rather creates representations of modes of expression or ways of being that exist in the real and become a shared activity. But instead of focussing purely on Bourriaud’s overtly theoretical approach on how spectators engage and encounter the work, Noonan rather, acted as both auteur and storyteller, directing his cast of characters as they move in and out of moments in time, and in and out of character. In Scenes Noonan has created aesthetic, ethereal and beautiful monochromatic imagery that is embedded with a delightful undercurrent of the unknown, leaving the spectator in a state of mild confusion and as they continue to search for something more.
 Bourriaud, Nicolas, Relational Aesthetics. Paris: Presses du réel, 2002, pp17-18.
 David Noonan recently featured in the 2009 Tate Triennial titled Altermodern which was curated by Nicholas Bourriaud.