David Noonan’s Ges­tures in Time

Sophie Knezic
Frieze

The artist’s solo show of tapes­tries at Anna Schwartz Gallery in Mel­bourne are invo­ca­tions of an erst­while era

In his essay on the ear­ly 20th-cen­tu­ry Ger­man his­to­ri­an and writer Max Kom­merell, the Ital­ian philoso­pher Gior­gio Agam­ben explores the nature of ges­ture, under­stand­ing it as a form of expres­sion close­ly tied to spo­ken lan­guage. Ges­tures are a phys­i­cal imprint of a person’s attempt to make them­selves under­stood, but also expres­sions of an inner, silent dia­logue. In oth­er words, beyond nec­es­sary com­mu­ni­ca­tion, ges­ture has an inher­ent self-reflexivity.

David Noonan’s new series of six jacquard tapes­tries com­prise moody black and white images of life-sized fig­ures, excised from their orig­i­nal pho­to­graph­ic sources and set into new con­fig­u­ra­tions. Each of the char­ac­ters is cropped into a dis­lo­cat­ed ground, their idio­syn­crat­ic ges­tures con­vey­ing a sense of absorbed intro­spec­tion. In one image a fig­ure stands immo­bi­lized, her eyes closed as she faces the sun, lost in a pri­vate rever­ie. In anoth­er, a woman stretch­es out her arm in a light stand­ing twist, head fac­ing the cam­era with her eyes obscured by dark, vel­vety shad­ows. A third tapes­try focus­es on a cos­tume assis­tant adjust­ing a performer’s skull­cap, his eyes shut and hands clasped togeth­er, almost in sup­pli­ca­tion, whilst lean­ing towards her.

The body lan­guage of these fig­ures sug­gests a moment of arrest, a pause in action before a series of move­ments recom­mence. Most of the fig­ures, who would seem to be mime artists, actors or dancers, are clad in leo­tards or vests, their faces accen­tu­at­ed through stage make up and spot light­ing. Drained of colour, the stark tonal con­trasts of the images height­en the sense of dra­ma, the pale fig­ures inverse­ly sil­hou­et­ted against lus­trous black grounds. Yet, the back­grounds are not the audi­to­ri­um inte­ri­ors one might expect but abstract fields of enlarged brush marks, inky splotch­es and cray­oned lines – as if the fig­ures had been dis­placed into an over­sized Ab Ex paint­ing by Robert Moth­er­well or Franz Kline.

For sev­er­al years Noo­nan has pro­duced col­laged images com­posed from a mis­cel­lany of sources: books and mono­graphs on the­atre, stage design and dance from the 1960s to the 90s. The anony­mous fig­ures often have a retro allure, their gar­ments and svelte bod­ies index­es of a bygone era of under­ground avant-garde per­for­mance. While Noonan’s ear­li­er work focussed on cos­tumed fig­ures and masked faces screen-print­ed onto earthy tex­tiles such as Bel­gian linen or jute, he cre­at­ed these grayscale tapes­tries in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Flem­ish weavers. Void of the warm tones of nat­ur­al fab­rics these images are aus­tere: both more for­bid­ding and less oper­at­ic than pre­vi­ous works. The mono­chrome also evokes the tex­ture and tones of ear­ly Xerox pho­to­copies. At times, the stark­ness of the white sec­tions dis­rupts the illu­sion of col­laged ele­ments: it’s as if the imagery was con­struct­ed from three-dimen­sion­al layers.

These trans­fix­ing, mer­cu­r­ial fig­ures seem to both resist and court being looked at – a para­dox that lies at the heart of ges­ture. As Kom­merell not­ed, ges­tures speak first­ly of the subject’s rela­tion to them­selves: only by virtue of this do they become com­pelling for oth­ers. Noonan’s com­po­si­tions cap­ture this enig­ma – of phys­i­cal expres­sions that are simul­ta­ne­ous­ly elo­quent and mute, pub­lic in com­mu­nica­tive func­tion yet inter­nal and deeply private.

For Agam­ben, his­tor­i­cal epochs vary in their breadth of ges­tur­al lan­guage: like oth­er forms of lan­guage, some have been lost over time. Noonan’s deploy­ment of vin­tage pho­tographs fil­tered through the super­an­nu­at­ed tech­nolo­gies of pho­to­copy­ing and mechan­i­cal weav­ing folds into this cul­tur­al read­ing as sal­vaged frag­ments from oth­er worlds. His tapes­tries are invo­ca­tions of erst­while eras, the lex­i­con of bod­i­ly ges­tures their distillate.

frieze​.com

Filter

Angel­i­ca Mesi­ti: The Musi­cal Brain’ The High Line, New York

Angel­i­ca Mesi­ti is one of four artists includ­ed in The Musi­cal Brain, a video exhibition […]

Read More

Emi­ly Floyd: Edu­ca­tion: Alter­na­tives and the Academy

Edu­ca­tion: Alter­na­tives and The Acad­e­mySpeak­ers: Emi­ly Floyd and Gridthiya Gawee­wong Edu­ca­tion: Alter­na­tives and The […]

Read More

Mar­co Fusina­to: Ter­mi­nal Gui­tar’, Dark Mofo

SPEC­TRAL ARROWS: Mel­bourne, 2018 6 hour per­for­mance, 9 June, 2018 Bux­ton Con­tem­po­rary, Mel­bourne Pho­to: Rena­to Colangelo […]

Read More

Amri­ta Hepi: OUT­SIDE INHOT­LINE LAUNCHED

We know it’s a been an inter­est­ing year. We’re col­lect­ing ded­i­ca­tions and songs for people […]

Read More

John Nixon, Stephen Bram & Rose Nolan, Cook­ing with John’ curat­ed by Amalia Lin­do & Jacque­line Stojanović

Hay­dens, Mel­bourne 10 — 12 More­land Road Brunswick East, 3057 Exhi­bi­tion open­ing: 22 May from  […]

Read More

Emi­ly Floyd, Louisa Bufarde­ci & Su san Cohn, We Change the World’ The Ian Pot­ter Cen­tre: NGV Aus­tralia, Lev­el 3

Works by Emi­ly Floyd, Louisa Bufarde­ci & Su san Cohn will be on dis­play as […]

Read More

Angel­i­ca Mesi­ti: Borås Art Biennial

Deep lis­ten­ing for long­ingBorås Art Bien­ni­al 2021May 29 – Sep­tem­ber 262021 The 2021 edition […]

Read More

Emi­ly Floyd, OPEN SPACE!’, George Street, Sydney

A large scale new pub­lic art­work by Emi­ly Floyd has been unveiled in Sydney’s […]

Read More

John Nixon: profile

Iter­a­tions: John Nixon Not far from where St Kil­da beach forms a firm line against the […]

Read More

Lau­ren Brin­cat, Louisa Bufarde­ci & Daniel Crooks, Tar­raWar­ra Bien­ni­al 2021: Slow Mov­ing Waters’

Lau­ren Brin­cat, Louisa Bufarde­ci & Daniel Crooks have each been com­mis­sioned to cre­ate new work […]

Read More

DIS­CUS­SION: Shaun Glad­well & Dr. Sean Lowry

Dr Sean Lowry, Head of Crit­i­cal and The­o­ret­i­cal Stud­ies, Vic­to­ri­an Col­lege of the Arts […]

Read More

Three exhi­bi­tions to see in New York this weekend

Daniel Crooks: the Sub­tle Knife­Un­til 31 Jan­u­ary in Times Square, Man­hat­tan As the residual […]

Read More

More Than 40 Inter­na­tion­al Gal­leries Are Col­lab­o­rat­ing on a New Auc­tion-Style Sales Plat­form Cham­pi­oning Art From the Glob­al South

Dozens of gal­leries have come togeth­er to take part in an inno­v­a­tive sale and […]

Read More

New gallery plat­form South South launch­es to pro­mote art from out­side the dom­i­nant US-Europe axis

We talk a lot, in the US-Euro­­pean focused art world, about increas­ing the promi­nence of […]

Read More

Daniel Crooks: Asia Soci­ety Tri­en­ni­al, New York

The inau­gur­al Asia Soci­ety Tri­en­ni­al opens today 27 Octo­ber, 2020 in New York City, and […]

Read More

John Nixon Test­ed the Vital­i­ty of Geo­met­ric Abstraction

“… Nixon was not only an artist but a cura­tor, musi­cian, gal­lerist, small-press pub­lish­er and […]

Read More

Lau­ren Brin­cat: Wool­lahra Small Sculp­ture Prize

The 20th annu­al Wool­lahra Small Sculp­ture Prize exhi­bi­tion, includ­ing Lau­ren Brin­cat, will be presented […]

Read More

Angel­i­ca Mesi­ti, Busan Bien­nale 2020: Words at an Exhibition

Words at an Exhi­bi­tion – an exhi­bi­tion in ten chap­ters and five poems Busan Biennale […]

Read More

Pre­car­i­ous Move­ments: Chore­og­ra­phy and the Muse­um. Ses­sion 2. Square Peg: Rethink­ing and Recon­fig­ur­ing the Muse­um Collection

Pre­car­i­ous Move­ments: Con­ver­sa­tions is a three-part pro­gram of live talks with artists, cura­tors and conservators […]

Read More

The Joy of the Gestalt: John Nixon 1949 – 2020

Before I met John Nixon I had already seen John Nixon. John was the sub­ject of […]

Read More

New Wages For Stu­dents: A poster after Lot­ta Feminista

The poster over­lays two archival vec­tors, the cov­er design for Car­la Lonzi’s 1975​“Die […]

Read More

JOHN NIXON (1949 – 2020)

WHENLIVED in cul­tur­al­ly and polit­i­cal­ly con­ser­v­a­tive Bris­bane in the late​’70s and early […]

Read More

Ker­rie Poli­ness: recip­i­ent of McClel­land Nation­al Small Sculp­ture Award

Ker­rie Poli­ness is one of four recip­i­ents of the Nation­al Small Sculp­ture Award 202 […]

Read More

Kate Mitchell: The Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Deck

Hyper-linked is an exhi­bi­tion for the dig­i­tal realm, pre­sent­ing new projects by sev­en contemporary […]

Read More