Review: ‘Scenes’ by David Noonan at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA), Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 15th August – 27th September 2009

Commissioning Curator: Juliana Engberg
Coordinating Curator: Charlotte Day



Installation view of 'Scenes' by David Noonan at ACCA


Installation view of Scenes by David Noonan at ACCA




Limited colour palette of ochres, whites, browns and blacks.

Rough texture of floor covered in Jute under the feet.

Layered, collaged print media figures roughly printed on canvas – elements of abstraction, elements of figuration.

The ‘paintings’ are magnificent; stripped and striped collages. Faces missing, dark eyes. There is something almost Rembrandt-esque about the constructed images, their layering, like Rembrandt’s Night Watch (1642) – but then the performance element kicks in  – the makeup, the lipstick, the tragic/comedic faces.

Mannequin, doll-like cut-out figures, flat but with some volume inhabiting the tableaux vivant.

Twelve standing figures in different attitudes – a feeling of dancing figures frozen on stage, very Japanese Noh theater. Spatially the grouping and use of space within the gallery is excellent – like frozen mime.

The figures move in waves, rising and falling both in the standing figures and within the images on the wall.

Looking into the gallery is like looking through a picture window onto a stage set (see above image).

“The fracturing of identity, the distortion of the binaries of light and dark, absence/presence in spatio-temporal environments.

The performance as ritual challenging a regularized and constrained repetition of norms.” (Judith Butler).

Excellent, thought provoking exhibition.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

Many thankx to ACCA for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.


David Noonan. 'Scenes'




Installation view of Scenes by David Noonan at ACCA



“Noonan often works with found photographic imagery taken from performance manuals, textile patterns and archive photographs to make densely layered montages. These works at once suggest specific moments in time and invoke disorientating a-temporal spaces in which myriad possible narratives emerge. The large-scale canvases framing this exhibition depict scenes of role-playing, gesturing characters, and masked figures set within stage-like spaces. Printed on coarsely woven jute, collaged fabric elements applied to the surface of the canvases further signal the cutting and splicing of images.

Noonan’s new suite of figurative sculptures, comprise life size wooden silhouettes faced with printed images of characters performing choreographed movements. While the figurative image suggests a body in space, the works’ two dimensional cut-out supports insist on an overriding flatness which lends them an architectural quality – as stand-ins for actual performers and as a means by which to physically navigate the exhibition space.”

Press release from the Chisenhale Gallery website [Online] Cited 20/09/2009 no longer available online


“For the Helen Macpherson Smith Commission, he will bring the characters depicted in his signature collage works off the wall and onto an imagined ‘stage’. Several life-size, wooden cut-out figures will inhabit the ACCA exhibition gallery, frozen in choreographed movements.

Noonan’s dancing figures will be framed by several large-scale canvas works, printed photographic and film imagery gleaned from performance manuals, textile patterns and interior books. Printed on coarse woven jute, he cuts, slices and montages images together constructing compositions that hover between two and three dimensionality, positive and negative space, past and present, stasis and action.

“‘Scenes’ recalls the experimental workshops and youth-focused exuberance of a more optimistic era, coinciding with the artists own childhood in the 1970s” says curator Charlotte Day. “With these new works, Noonan re-introduces the idea of ritual, of creating a temporal space beyond reason that is filled with both danger and hope.”

David Noonan (Australian, b. 1969) is the fifth recipient of the Helen Macpherson Smith Commission, one of the most significant and generous commissions in Australia. The partnership between ACCA and the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust offers Victorian artists the opportunity to create an ambitious new work of art, accompanied by an exhibition in ACCA’s exhibition hall.

Press release from the ACCA website [Online] Cited 20/09/2009 no longer available online


David Noonan returned to Melbourne with this significant project which extended his abiding interest in time and space. Using ACCA’s large room as a field of encounter, he created an ensemble of works in 2 and 3 dimensions that make purposeful use of the audience’s own navigation through the gallery. Visitors walking between David’s free-standing figures performed like time travellers in a landscape that had been paused. His enigmatic wall based works appeared to trap momentary scenes in a layered time warp.

This major commission allowed for an ambitious project by a Victorian artist who had reached a significant platform in their own practice. Elements of the commission were gifted to a Victorian regional gallery. In this case the recipient was Bendigo Art Gallery.

Text from the ACCA website [Online] Cited 24/04/2019


Installation view of 'Scenes' by David Noonan at ACCA


Installation view of Scenes by David Noonan at ACCA


Image from 'Scenes' by David Noonan at ACCA



Australia Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA)
111 Sturt Street, Southbank, Victoria 3006, Australia
Phone: 03 9697 9999

Opening Hours:
Tuesday to Friday 10am – 5pm
Weekends & Public Holidays 11am – 5pm
Open all public holidays except Christmas Day and Good Friday

ACCA website


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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Orphans and small groups’ 1994-96 Part 2

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