Noel McKenna was born in Brisbane in 1956. After studying architecture at the University of Queensland in 1974 and 1975, the artist continued his education at the Brisbane College of Art, attending the College between 1976 and 1978. In 1981 the artist studied at the Alexander Mackie College, Sydney.
In the late 1970s the artist held exhibitions at the Kelvin Grove CAE Gallery, Brisbane and in the early 1980s began showing with Garry Anderson Gallery, Sydney holding exhibitions with Anderson in 1983, 1985, 1987, 1989, and 1990. McKenna’s work continues to be exhibited Australia wide – Niagara Galleries, Melbourne have shown the artists work since 1985, Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide since 1993, and Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney since 1998, whilst Heiser Gallery represents the artist in Brisbane. Solo exhibitions in institutional spaces in Australia include Noel McKenna: Animal Works 1977 – 2003 Dubbo Regional Gallery, New South Wales and touring (2003); Somewhere in the city: Noel McKenna, QUT Art Museum, Brisbane (2005); Noel McKenna: Sheltered Life, Penrith Regional Gallery, New South Wales (2006); The Weekly Bus Rail Ticket: Noel McKenna, National Art School Gallery, New South Wales (2008), the same year he held a solo exhibition entitled Northland at the Mother’s Tankstation Gallery, Dublin, Ireland.
McKenna has also held solo exhibitions abroad including Total Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul, Korea (1998); Bowen Galleries, Wellington, New Zealand (1998, 2001); John Batten Gallery, Hong Kong (2001, 2006); Noel McKenna: Sheltered Life, City Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand and Yamaki Art Gallery, Osaka, Japan (2005).
Selected group exhibitions McKenna’s work has been curated in recently includeUnAustralian, Anna Bibby Gallery, Auckland (2005); The Visibility of Practice, National Art School, Sydney (2004); A Modelled World, McClelland Gallery, Victoria (2003); Fair Game: Art & Sport, National Gallery of Victoria (2003); Ready, Set…Go! Sporting Life and Australian Art, Global Arts Link, Ipswich (2001); PARIHAKA The Art of Passive Resistance, City gallery, Wellington, New Zealand, Pets, Prey and Predators, Mosman Regional Art Gallery and touring (1999); On the Road – The Car in Australian Art, Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne (1999); Snap Freeze: Still Life Now, Tarrarwarra Museum of Art, Victoria (2007); Doug Moran National Portrait Prize, State Library of New South Wales, Sydney (2008); Avoiding Myth and Message: Australian Artists and the Literary World, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney (2009); Twelve Degrees of Latitude: Regional Gallery and University Art Collections in Queensland, Perc Tucker Regional Gallery, Queensland (2009); The Ipswich House, Ipswich Art Gallery, Queensland (2010) and Christmas Exhibition, Heiser Gallery (2010).
A regular finalist in the Wynne and Sulman Prizes at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, McKenna won the Sulman in 1994. Other prizes received by the artist include the Muswellbrook Acquisitive Prize, Muswellbrook Regional Gallery, New South Wales (1995); Trustees Watercolour Prize, Art Gallery of New South Wales (1997, 1999, 2001, and 2002); Melbourne Savage Club 2001 Art Prize for Painting, Melbourne (2001); and the Mosman Prize, Mosman Art Gallery, New South Wales (2003).