A dress code offers a guide for appropriate standards of clothing for a particular time and place. This exhibition however, codes variations on what we wear, and how this identifies us as individuals or a community, or gives expression to culture, gender and/or context. The art that emerges here has little to do with wearability, instead it has generated work that may conceal the body as much as reveal it.
Among the five participating artists is Gerwyn Davies, whose work is instantly recognisable. He works within what he terms as “culturally ostracized narratives”. When fashion and clothing is encouraged to move “beyond the requirements of practicality, comfort, wearability, it develops my own thinking about how the body can be spatially reorganised through material – to abstract and conceal,” says Davies. His photographic work is known for its humour and folly – in Prawn, 2016, a prawn carapace encases his body while his tattooed legs emerge from below. Dressed in this getup, he looks over a wall at the Big Prawn. It is absurd, yes, and funny, yet the image hums with a level of unease, perhaps on account of its surreal nature. Beachball, 2017, is an image of a man bound head to knee with flotation rings and positioned next to a swimming pool with a matching beach ball.
Hannah Gartside has worked in dance and choreography – like Davies she also begins with materials, and her installation is driven by tactile qualities. Translucent leopard-print fabrics sourced from op shops are at the heart of a large-scale work made for Dress Code, which refers to the body in its absence. This exhibition sits in the context of the Museum of Brisbane’s The Designers’ Guide: Easton Pearson Archive which remembers the unique contribution to global fashion made by the Brisbane-based brand (1989–2016). Dress Code is a lively exploration of a place that begins where fashion ends.
This article was originally published in the November/December 2018 print issue of Art Guide Australia.