Showcase

Dominic Garcia, Laura Lee, Pornprasert Khanthawichai, Natsuho Takita
Gallery 4A, Sydney

Being porous, human skin is easily inscribed. This is not always a deliberate act of decoration: the body can be inscribed quite by accident. A cut to the skin shows just how fragile flesh can be. Human skin is a sensitive site of exchange between the inside and the outside, or as Elizabeth Grosz has noted incisions and orifices articulate an opposition between the body's exterior and interior.

Skin and its inscriptions form a landscape that signifies information about, and to, the body. As a surface or container, skin not only reveals the architectural veneer of the body, but also various racial, social and sexual markings. What if skin is removed from its corporeal associations, and used instead as an architectural metaphor? A tenuous cartography, skin can refer to layers of culturally inscribed meanings. 'Showcase' features the work of four artists who present metaphorical 'skins' that displace the 'body', representing the exchange between interior and exterior bodies of knowledge.

Dominic Garcia's series of highly minimal works, Symmetry Type, presents an appositional nexus between black and white, touch and vision. Symmetry Type is comprised of four framed images that conceal their meanings from touch, like an authoritative museum exhibit. A split screen of black and white is meticulously framed, referring to a Minimalism of neutral oppositions. The glass of the frame shields these works from touch, and protects the interior from exterior violation. The formal elegance of Symmetry Type is disrupted by Braille Labeller, a sheet of plastic indexed with braille markings. While SymmetryType places tactility off -limits, Braille Labeller is a palimpsest that is erotically charged, like human skin, inscribed with the accumulation of quotidian meanings. Ultimately, Garcia destabilises the primacy of vision, through an investigation of how touch has its own chain of power relations.

If skin is likened to a sheet of braille, does the surface of the body have its own language? Or does language exists outside the body and its skin? If skin signifies the coded surface of the body, how does fashion and garb create a value-added exteriority? Laura Lee's work, Museum of Replica, is a collection of fabrics that are objectified in a similar way to Garcia's Symmetry Type. Lee presents a miniature green jacket, complete with white trimmings against a red velvet backdrop. Lee displaces the jacket from its cultural origin by reproducing it within a tradition of dress through simulacra. In Notations of Trimmings, Lee presents two rows of traditional Asian trimmings. A strange synecdoche is established where fabrics may not allegorise skin, but instead refer to cultural artefacts that signify collective ritual and tradition.

Pornprasert Khanthawichai's Stupa offers homage to Asian architecture. Three sculptural spires rest inside the gallery and are framed by two windows, through which the high rise architecture of Sussex Street at the Western edge of the city (but in Chinatown) is visible and emphasises another cultural displacement. Stupa re-presents the architectural veneer of traditional Asian buildings, within the gallery interior, and provides a parallel between the oppositions of inside/outside and East/West.

Antonioni's film Blow-Up (1966) explored the notion of exposing photographic subtleties by literally blowing them out of proportion. Natsuho Takita's Untitled paintings enlarge and crop a photographic source, to the extent that it becomes a blur when transposed on canvas. The paintings have an airbrushed aesthetic that seems incomplete, simply because of what is excluded. The photographic origin is magnified like a fleshy blemish, now permanent.

The notion of the 'body' is under constant threat and negotiation in the late twentieth century. The anxiety of cross-cultural displacement in the work of these four young artists is heightened through the body's absence. It is this exclusion that allows the work in Showcase to be read as a series of displaced skins, ready to wear, touch and see.