This matrix of loosely painted diamond shapes are representative of Gunai men’s markings that are embedded with cultural significance. Distinctive to South Eastern Australia, they allude to narratives around culture, ceremony and connection to Country and would traditionally be found on items such as shields, boomerangs and weapons. As a contemporary artist Paton’s patterns are stylized motifs that form part of his visual language, working in conjunction with traditional forms such as spears and cloaks and colonial artefacts such as shooting rifles and parking tickets.
Beneath Paton’s painterly gestures gold text spells out SUBSCRIBE TO UR TRIBE. Harnessing the language of the internet with its propensity for mass mobilization, this statement is intended as both an affirmative call to action and a gesture of empowerment. Subscription infers maintaining a link to a movement or organization and this work calls for a reconnection with one’s community, language and Country. Conversely, Paton’s words also critique those who act as cultural chameleons, opportunists that slide between tribal groups, appropriating other indigenous nations’ stories without concern for protocol.
Steaphan Paton most recently won the Koorie Art Commission at the Melbourne Museum, Melbourne (2015) with his collaboration with Megan Cope entitled Transcendence. Select solo exhibitions include Where the trees are big and green, Latrobe Contemporary Gallery, Morwell (2011). Select group exhibitions include Primavera, Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney (2015); My Bullock Modified, Nextwave Festival, Melbourne (2014); From where I stand, Melbourne Museum, Melbourne (2014); Horizons, Bundoora Homestead, Bundoora (2014); Melbourne NOW, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (2013); Sketchbook project, Brooklyn Art Library, New York (2012). He was a finalist in the Western Australian Indigenous Art Awards, Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth (2015), and a recipient of the Victorian Indigenous Art Awards, Ballarat (2007), also shortlisted in (2014, 2013, 2012, 2011). His work is held in the public collections of the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; Melbourne Museum, Melbourne; Brooklyn Art Library, New York; Wellington Shire Council, Gippsland; and in private collections in Australia and overseas. He is represented at Tristian Koenig Gallery, Melbourne. Steaphan Paton is showing a two channel video installation entitled Cloaked Combat #2 as part of Resolution: New Indigenous Photomedia upstairs at SAM 26 August – 29 October
IMAGE: Steaphan Paton, Muraskin VI 2017. Image courtesy and © the artist and Tristian Koenig Gallery, Melbourne.