Cover image of the review
Rosslynd Piggott, Ten Rimbauds Holding One Rimbaud, 1986, Port Phillip City Collection, Naarm/Melbourne, purchased through St Kilda Festival Acquisitive Exhibition, City of St Kilda, 1986.

Thin Skin

9 Sep 2023
Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA) 20 Jul - 23 Sep 2023

What can we make of Thin Skin? Guest-curated by Jennifer Higgie, an Australian-English writer, editor, and painter, the group exhibition consists of paintings—mostly figurative—and aims to “explore the liminal space between figuration and abstraction.” To my mind, what Higgie describes as a “joyfully ambiguous” rationale diverges from the political didacticism that has often characterised the exhibition programme of the Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA) in recent years.

Contrary to MUMA’s house style—what art historian Rosalind Krauss describes as an eagerness to immediately identify meaning or the “rush to the signified”—this exhibition revels in a dreamlike style and indeterminate subject matter. It offers a personal view of its curator, born of conversation, feeling, chance, and experience. It differs from the critical research underpinning previous conceptually themed exhibitions at MUMA, which typically focus on artists known for their highbrow “critical clout” (Isa Genzken, Henrik Olesen, Gerard Byrne) rather than commercial palatability and popular accessibility (Tracey Emin, Tom Polo, Mitch Cairns). It is an exhibition that foregrounds how painting today, and even contemporary art at large, can still be a site of middlebrow “it reminds one of” Rorschach exercises. Situated within a curatorial programme aimed at critiquing the university from the inside, Thin Skin offers a chance to reconsider how we engage with contemporary art.

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