Steaphan Paton: Nullius in Verba
10 – 31 August 2019
By Isabel White
"Nullius in verba", a latin saying that roughly translates to "take no one's word for it", acts as the title for both this STATION exhibition, and for one of the artworks it presents. Nullius in Verba II-XIII, created by Gunai and Monero Melbourne-based artist, Steaphan Paton, is one of two works in Paton's first STATION show. While this is Paton's first exhibition at the contemporary art gallery in South Yarra, the artist has previously displayed work across Melbourne, at some of Australia's major art institutions, including in ACCA's Sovereignty (2016) and The National Gallery of Victoria's Colony: Frontier Wars (2018).
While the exhibition is sparse, the minimalist display of the works allows for in-depth focus on the detail and complexity of each. The sculptural work, an installation comprising of 12 etched steel shields on stands presented in a triangular formation, is captivating and beautifully displayed.
The shields are intricately detailed with a "matrix of carved diamond shapes alluding to narratives around culture and ceremony." Each shield is individual in its carvings, the effect produced being one of uniformity that is simultaneously revealing of a delicate distinction existing between each piece.
The second work, a 30-second video piece entitled My Jindabyne II is deeply engaging, the constant shift in the landscape imagery giving the sense that the work is endless. The video consists of multiple segments across 2 screens, each depicting movement along the same portion of the Australian countryside, at different points in the video. While the two works were created in dramatically different mediums, the clear link was in the connection to country present in both works - the literal depiction in My Jindabyne II, and traditional use of Gunai shields within this country, in combination with the symbolic meanings of the etchings in Nullius in Verba II-XIII.
Despite this, there is a slight disconnect between Paton's works and the space. All that was available as information about the pieces were the works measurements, titles, position and their sale prices. Whilst this does leave plenty of room for individual interpretation of the works, a prior understanding of the artist's work and intent is implied; clearly, artistic intention contributes greatly to any interpretation of these pieces.
While this exhibition is minimal, this boutique presentation provides a lovely display of one of Australia's most challenging interdisciplinary and artists, all within a commercial setting.
Isabel White is a Melbourne-based undergraduate student at The University of Melbourne, majoring in Art History.
Title image: Steaphan Paton, Nullius in Verba II-XIII (2019). Photo courtesy the artist and STATION.