One of the first times Noel and I met to talk about his work, he loaned me a book called 'Sticky Sublime'. In it, there was an essay by Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe called 'I'm Not Sure it is Sticky'. Gilberte-Rolfe writes that 'the techno-sublime image is the video image smooth and weightless and without tactility, a world which is not sticky'. I'd already seen some of Noel's work about six months before in his dealer gallery in Auckland, a series called "Tracing Colour". Monochromatic paintings were juxtaposed with their tracing-paper doubles, a kind of mirroring - the whole copy/original thing, Thinking back to the show and having another look at his catalogue, I though about the contrast between Gilbert-Rolfe's statement and Noel's paintings. Noel's work is all about 'the sublime', the nebulous, floating, often misunderstood idea that seems to lie at the heart of so much abstract painting. But then, his tracing paper works were, in every sense, sticky. They were literally the residues of his painted surfaces. They weren't smooth and weightless and they were definitely tactile. So here was Gilberte-Rolfe suggesting that the techno-sublime image is the opposite of what Noel was doing. I think Noel's desire to engage with technology and the 'techno-sublime' in a way that directly affects his painting is what led him to the current installation and the series of work related to it.

On the couch at three in the morning, in an insomniac's sleep, the TV is a blue screen. The rented video has finished and there's nothing but blue. Brutal on bleary eyes, the image is both hypnotic and violent - the digital replacement of the analog snow that used to fill screens receiving no information. Silent and still, bright serenity replaced confused, erratic screeching. Instead of absorbing light, this new digital void emanates its own, a surface rich with colour but empty of texture and tactility. This sterility belies its function as fertile ground for so much technological action, an open field of possibilities. It's this image and not the action that usually takes place over it that Ivanoff uses as the starting point for his installation.

Ivanoff's work is rooted in the Minimalist tradition. A big part of that tradition is the triangular relationship the artifact sets up - its 'object-ness' creating a three-way dialogue between itself, space and viewer. Look at Don Judd's cantilevered boxes, Dan Flavin's fluorescent tubes, Agnes Martin's monochrome-and-graphite surface, They affect and are affected by contingencies of the space they occupy - light, architecture, colour of the walls. Ivanoff's paintings work in the same way. The way he builds colour, layer after layer, creates subtly shifting monochromes. They respond to light, change when the viewer moves in the space, tactile up-close, smooth from far away. The way he focuses on surface is probably closer to Martin and Ryman than to Judd and Flavin. But this exhibition kind of changes that, because his painting is just one aspect of the whole installation.

Paintings by artists like Martin and Ryman always have a sense of touch, that connection between pain, brush and surface that always leaves some mark no matter how reductive the surface. But in this installation, Ivanoff is working with technology. He can remove his touch completely, creating a smooth surface. This is shown by the large video projection, a big empty blue screen. It sets the scene, providing the basis for the installation by establishing the size, shape and colour of the other elements, But as an image in its own right it is subversive. Nothing happens. The viewer sits and waits, but the video never starts. There's nothing to watch. Ivanoff is simply inviting the viewer to be seduced by the image for what it is - a rich colour and strong light. The emptiness of the blue screen seems boring, but at the same time it's hypnotic. Despite its barrenness you stick with it for a while. Once a period of expectation passes, once you recognise nothing's going to happen, it becomes interesting because its boring.

The other two parts of the installation, the painting and the mono print, are a record of Ivanoff's seduction by the empty image as well as his frustration with it. Take the painting for example, identical in size and shape as the projection. Ivanoff seems to be aspiring to that same hypnotic sterility, but the very act of applying paint means his emulation fails. Traces of brush, patches drying at different speeds, the underling gesso, the board he paints on, all contribute to the failure of his facsimile. the light colour difference between painting and projection questions whether it's a representation of the same negative space all, because our reading of the blue void is only based on that particular blue of the video screen. Once he paints his version, associations start springing to mind - monochromatic painting, Minimalism, Yves Klein Blue. So all these references contradict his attempt to recreate the digital void. His desire to be technological is his execution is thwarted by his attempt to represent it.

The monoprint opposite records the frustration. Ivanoff lays heavy sailcloth across his painting, spreading and pressing, trying to lift the traces of his hand from the surface. So his attempt to be technologically smooth is challenged by this very real and direct stickiness. And not only is the process sticky, but it's also crude. it's basic in the extreme - the painting lying flat on the floor, the artist on hands and knees forcing his weight down on the cloth, But then when it peels away, an elegant image is left, identical in shape and size to the painting and projection. So this visceral act acts as an attempt to remove himself from the surface of his painting, but the prints tactility inserts the artist into the installation even more.

Just as soon as you notice the artists presence, you see other aspects of the installation doing their damnedst to eliminate any evidence of 'touch' and its consequent fallibility. The work is installed in he space with a near-mechanical precision. The painting and the print are perfectly aligned. The eyelets of the screws that secure the print are too. Put your head against the wall and look along the surface of the print. It' as tight as a drum. This lets you see the underlying supports, identical to the frame that supports the painting. Then look at the edge of the painting - perfect balance between the amount of board, gesso and pigment visible. To look at these aspects you have to get close to the objects, move around the space. You're forced towards them anyway, because if you stand in the middle casting your eye around the room, you end up in the projection - your black silhouette become the content of the otherwise empty blue screen.

So Ivanoff takes the new digital image of the twenty-first century emptiness - the blue screen - and translates it into a frustrated and frustrating installation. digital sterility is confronted with a sticky sensuality that inserts the humanness into the space. The ultimate failure of either technology or painting to beat the other into submission gives the installation its edge and stabs at the purity of painting as a medium. But beyond all this discussion about installation, technology, minimalism etc., the one fundamental feature that gives the work its success is Noel's innate sense of the 'thing'. What I mean by this is that he has an ability to make successful objects that have a presence in the world. they hold their own as visual artifacts. Through this combination of several strands of contemporary practice - painting, installation, video, digital technology - his work makes an interesting new contribution to one of New Zealand's most dominant art traditions - formal abstraction.

Anthony Byrt, September 2002.