Evangelos Sakaris

Life Engrave Part: Odysses Grammophone
Michael Wardell Gallery, Melbourne

Working in the interstices between painting and installation, Evangelos Sakaris destabilises the autonomy of art and language. Paintings, text and a fifties style gramophone are bought together in the gallery in a consideration of the dis· cursive position of an artist of Greek origins, a reminder of the multiple and hybrid identities that constitute Australian culture.

Diverse points of connection between text and paintings and also within each work reconjugate binary associations of original/ translation, authentic/unauthentic, unity/hybrid into rhizomatic webs of interpretation. A configuration of blue monochrome paintings is a miniature model of the full sized works. The lines of a poem (written by the artist and based on Greek poetry that itself was sourced in fourth century text) are displayed in jumbled order and provide titles to the paintings. The viewer must refigure the sequence of the poem to match the corresponding work, a translation that appears to add little additional meaning apart from what Sneja Gunew has termed the "superior discursive authority" of the translated content.

A displacement and disjunction of hierarchies and expectations are present throughout this exhibition. The translucent blue surfaces of the paintings reveal numerous layers; scenes copied from sixteenth century etchings, part of a book-plate of an English translation of Homer's Odyssey, the silhouette of the gramophone as it appeared in the artist's studio, the canine trademark of "His Master's Voice" and lines of text in Greek and English. Greek poetry, and the work of Jacques Derrida, of James Joyce and ideas of linguistic difference are interrelated within the exhibition title. The referencing of other works of visual art, poetry and music indicates Sakaris's interest is not in explicating intersubjective interpretation but in questioning whether meaning or language is absolutely translatable.

Waiter Benjamin in his essay "The Task of the Translator" warns against translations that absorb and envelop content without creating new meaning. The "something which cannot be communicated" that appears only in the original justifies a multiplicity of languages as well as the attempt to allow one tongue to be powerfully affected by that which it has translated.

Sakaris plays between the original and the reinscribed, the traditional and the compound, transforming images made by etching needle onto canvas and filling the room with the scratching sound of a (Greek) record revolving, but with tracks not audible, under the gramophone stylus. In the beginning was the word but, like Odysseus, the word has been beset by adversity in its eventful journey, losing the original sense and struggling to hold onto its own identity. Sakaris's work is a call for recognition of the meaning between the lines, the acceptance of the spaces in between categorical subject positions inhabited by cultural difference. The silence of His Masters Voice on the artist's gramophone signifies a concern for the privileging and subordination of voice in history, memory and the present. The voiceless and the invisible are privileged in Sakaris's multiplicity and dispersal of meaning in the layered qualities of his practice. The spatial void suggested by his blue canvases signifies a looking backwards and marks a move to recognition of the multiplicity accommodated in the untranslatable.