Drawing Wall #34 - Steven Rhall

Discover the meaning of the barely visible 'AT THIS SITE', the latest instalment by artist Steven Rhall. This unique drawing wall is a sign post that reflects on Australia's history and the absence of Aboriginal voice.

When: Fri, 22 Feb – Wed, 1 May 2019
Where: Shepparton Art Museum, 70 Welsford Street, Shepparton

The SAM Drawing Wall is located in the Eastbank foyer, adjacent to the SAM entrance.

Steven Rhall is an interdisciplinary artist of the Taungurung People, whose practice spans photography, sculpture, and performance including public and private interventions responding both to cultural histories of place and ideas about their potential futures. He lives and works in Melbourne, Victoria. Rhall exhibits internationally, lectures at the Victorian College of the Arts, and is a current PhD candidate at Monash University on Birrarung-ga land (Melbourne, Australia).

For this particular commission, Rhall has painted the oversized text AT THIS SITE in a gloss white paint on a flat white, almost grey, finish. The effect is a phrase that is barely visible. The letters are ceiling to floor in height, and stretch the full length of the wall. The viewer is encouraged to ‘find’ the letters, and thus decipher the meaning underlying the text. The difficulty of doing so is intentional. Rhall’s choice of text and colour intentionally challenge ideas around what First Nations artwork should be, from dot paintings of central desert art, to the use of colour and form. These words and the way in which they have been treated reveals a desire to reflect on the way that Aboriginal and Colonial cultural histories and perspectives have, historically, not always been visible or aligned.

The term SITE has two meanings. It refers to the place that the work is situated. It also has a wider significance for the artist; as the site where the artist’s mother grew up as a young girl, on the banks of the Kaiela (Goulburn River) between Mooroopna and Shepparton – a place more familiarly known as The Flat’s, and where she was removed from her family by authorities.

Rhall’s reference to a specific location and event can also be read as emblematic of many such occurrences experienced by many Aboriginal communities.  Rhall gives voice to a part of Australia’s history, the absence of Aboriginal voice, a lived experience, and the ongoing presence of the past as something that we all share and can comprehend.