weft: sonja porcaro

systems: katherine huang
Experimental Art Foundation, Adelaide
8 March - 7 April 2001

Christopher Chapman's decision to exhibit installation artists Sonja Porcaro and Katherine Huang together was inspired. Looking through Porcaro's visually minimal installation weft into Huang's abundant work systems, it is clear that stylistically the works are very different. Whilst this difference is complementary, it is the delicate sensibility to material, space and composition with which Porcaro and Huang imbue their installations that defines the success of the juxtaposition. This delicate sensibility imparts a sense of hesitancy in the space of the gallery. In both installations there is an invitation to inspect, but also a sense of mystery, a stepping sideways.

Porcaro's installation weft is positioned in the first half of the gallery, pushed back so as to draw the viewer in. This is the first hesitation. The second is the sparse material existence of weft. A series of white and blue chalk sticks strung together lengthwise and suspended from the ceiling form solid lines which only just touch the floor. As you look at them, you look through them. Their colour, tone and texture are so similar to the walls and floor that they become visually inaudible. lt is only Huang's colourful installation systems sitting behind that gives them certain visual definition. Despite their minimal material existence, Porcaro's suspended chalk lines are impelling. The lines which are suspended up to the ceiling draw me into the space, to inspect. The title weft suggests horizontal linearity, but the lines of chalk sticks are definite in their up-ended perpendicularity. They are the warp. And they are warped. The chalk sticks do not hang neatly one above the other, they sit weighted, pushed down by the one above, some sticks leaning to one side creating a very slight arc in the overall line that is amplified the closer it gets to the floor. The lines draw my eyes up and then down again, but never across. I become the weft, wanting to physically weave my way through the generous spaces between the lines of chalk. Ultimately I am impeded by their imperfection, their unpredictable nature that makes them seem fragile and vulnerable to disturbance. Despite this vulnerability, the height and singularity of each line emits a strong sense of identity and presence in the space. I am left with a feeling that not being able to physically penetrate the lines inhibits my immediate understanding of their purpose, but I am certain that there is purpose which has just slipped sideways to avoid my puncturing it. This is the third hesitation.

Huang's installation systems has its roots in the visual ethnographical school of 'this-is-my-studio art'. lt is Huang's extension of this methodology that stops systems from becoming dangerously contrived. Firstly Huang's installation is tempered with a sense of play and secondly it has a magical composition enhanced by the presence of Porcaro's adjacent weft. In systems Huang teases. She has made small chairs out of brightly coloured transparent Perspex. Apart from the chairs being too small and fragile to sit on they are covered in 'stuff': brightly coloured sketches, woven plastic ribbon, shiny stickers, pencils, and scrap pieces of Perspex stop us from sitting down. We are allowed to look but not to play. As with Porcaro's installation, there is a hesitation just at the point of entering. This hesitation is heightened by the transparency of many of Huang's materials. We look through the chairs, boxes, and cellophane shapes to admire their colourful reflection on the floor or wall. Solid objects become silhouetted and two dimensional and are levelled into shapes. Huang's installation operates both as a collected solid work and as an abstract two-dimensional image on the floor and walls. lt is this mixture of transparent and solid that contributes to the success of Huang's composition. However, it is her ability to lead the eye through the ample space of her work, over ground and up walls, whilst maintaining focus that is the most successful aspect of systems. Playful, almost childlike, but pleasantly restful, the work is a seductive balance between too much and too little visual stimulation. There is no evident system here. lt is Huang's system, tizzied up for show and hidden ironically in the transparent. There is an implicit understanding that what you see is all you get, even though what you see you look right through.

On my way out of the exhibition I notice on the floor just to my left, an 'H' by Porcaro. lt is a small solid construction, standing perhaps only fifty centimetres high and covered in cream coloured marshmallows. Leaning against the gallery wall , it is like a camouflaged reptile. H for hide, H for heart, H for hesitate, for hold, for hope, for home. I almost missed it (H for humble). Should I weft more. When I was a young girl the way I remembered the difference between warp and weft was to associate the word weft with left. The weft would run left to right, right to left. We are used to looking across. lt is how we read; how we count and in our minds, how we equate. There is more, there always is, but the things that are missed and/or forgotten in the clutter and transparency of Huang's systems are equal to the items camouflaged in Porcaro's weft. At the end of the day what I take home with me is a sensation, an initial sensation of pleasure, then hesitation, and now surprise.