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Wither 3 Detail, from the series Paper Thin, Chromira Photograph, Microcrystalline wax and Perspex, 50 x 38 x 2cm, 2011, Photograph: Matthew Stanton
Wither 3 Detail, from the series Paper Thin, Chromira Photographs, Microcrystalline wax and Perspex, 50 x 38 x 2cm, 2011, Photograph: Matthew Stanton

pETA CLANCY Paper Thin



Building D, Level 2, Room 07


Paper Thin
In scarring, the skin does not forget, in healing it forgives, and in aging it marks the passage of time(1)

The multifaceted, unstable, surprising and sometimes contradictory qualities of skin are fertile ground for me. Some of these complexities are evident in the writing of Sylvia Plath, in which skin is conceived of as both an entrapping boundary and a fragile membrane. In her poem, Face Lift, Plath explores the fragility of skin by drawing a connection between skin and paper: “Skin doesn’t have any roots, it peels away easy as paper" (2)This evocative association of skin with paper is analogous with my own explorations of the surfaces of skin and photographic paper.

I am interested in the materiality of the photographic medium. In past works I have pierced the photographic surfaces of my prints using extremely fine silver needles to create an embroidered effect across close-up intimate facial details such as eyelids, brows and lips. For Paper thin, these photographs are printed onto photographic paper, they are then crumpled in my hand, and smoothed out in a repeating fashion until the print softens to acquire a new texture. Through this process the layers of the paper and photographic emulsion break apart, leaving the “surface layer with its ghostly facial image which is then ironed and embedded directly in wax, preserved like a keepsake or momento mori.”(3)Intimate in scale, the close-up photographic portraits are interspersed with photographs of roses, the petals of which bud, bloom wither and die, not unlike the lives depicted in the portraits. “The petals of the roses also echo human skin with their plumpness in bloom, and their withered, shrunken quality in death.”(4)

Peta Clancy, August 2011.

1. S. Angelucci, ‘Exhibition Essay: Thick Skinned’, Gallery 44 Database of Contemporary Canadian Photography, cited Wednesday 10 August, 2011.
2.Biven, Barrie, M. “The Role of Skin in Normal and Abnormal Development with a Note on the Poet Sylvia Plath”. International Review of Psychoanalysis 9 (1982): 218.

3. Rachel Kent, excerpt from transcript - opening talk for ‘Paper Thin' (Peta Clancy solo exhibition at Dominik Mersch Gallery, Sydney, 2009).

4.Rachel Kent, excerpt from transcript.


Peta Clancy is a Melbourne based artist. For many years she has examined the intersection of art and biological and medical processes through her photographic practice. Her artwork has been exhibited widely in Australia and internationally, in China, the United Kingdom, the United States and Austria. She has been awarded numerous public grants including from Arts Victoria, the Australia Council for the Arts, Film Victoria and the Ian Potter Cultural Trust. Clancy’s artwork has been written upon by scholarly writers including Anne Marsh in ‘Look! Contemporary Australian Photography’ and Ingeborg Reichle in ‘Art in the Age of Technoscience: Genetic Engineering, Robotics, and Artificial Life in Contemporary Art’. She is undertaking a long-term collaborative project with London-based artist Helen Pynor exploring organ transplantation. They are working towards an exhibition at Performance Space, Sydney, in late 2011, curated by Bec Dean. They will undertake research residencies at Sydney College of the Arts and Performance Space to develop the project. The project has received funding from The Australia Council for the Arts Visual Arts Board and InterArts fund, and Monash University.Clancy is a lecturer in the Fine Art Department, Faculty of Art & Design at Monash University.



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