Yhonnie Scarce is an Australian artist and descendent of the Kokatha and Nukunu peoples, known for her glass-based sculptures and installations that address the lingering effects of colonisation on modern-day Australia.Read More
Combining research, archival material, and family history, Scarce brings attention to the historical displacement and exploitation of Aboriginal peoples as well as the discrimination that continues to affect Indigenous communities in contemporary Australian society.
Yhonnie Scarce's hand-blown glass sculptures often assume the shape of bush food, serving as a conduit through which the artist addresses the lesser-known aspects of Australian history. The large-scale installation Thunder Raining Poison (2015), for example, references the British nuclear tests at Maralinga in the 1950s through a cascade of more than 2,000 glass yams suspended from the ceiling. In Strontium — 90: Fallout Babies (2016), presented at Sydney Contemporary, Scarce places glass bush fruits in cribs to demonstrate the generational impact of the nuclear tests on Aboriginal communities, including her grandfather's and her own Kokatha Country.
In 2019, Yhonnie Scarce and the architecture studio Edition Office were awarded the National Gallery of Victoria Architecture Commission to present their collaboration In Absence at the NGV, Melbourne. Measuring 9 metres in height, the installation is a black wooden tower with an opening in the middle and reflective, black glass yams on its inside walls. The structure of In Absence evokes the traditional built structures and eel traps long employed by Indigenous communities, while its complex, glittering interior critiques the imperialist claim of terra nullius that served to justify the British colonisation of Australia.
In the dead house, conceived for the 2020 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art: Monster Theatres, is an installation of 30 glass bush bananas staged at the Adelaide Botanic Gardens inside the Dead House, a stone structure that once acted as a mortuary. The bananas, rendered in semi-opaque white with fissures on their sides, were lined along tables and carts as if they were scientific specimens or organs on display. The artwork invokes the history of the Dead House, where the Scottish coroner William Ramsay Smith allegedly misused human remains in the mortuary, including those of Aboriginal peoples.
In 2019, Yhonnie Scarce and Claire Watson co-curated Violent Salt, a group exhibition that examines the prejudice and discrimination experienced by First Nation peoples and marginalised communities in Australia. Launched at Artspace Mackay, Queensland, Violent Salt is scheduled to tour Australia throughout 2021.
Yhonnie Scarce has presented her work in Sydney Contemporary (2018), Sydney Biennale (2014), and the Venice Biennale (2013). Yhonnie Scarce: Missile Park, a major survey of her work, opened at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA), Melbourne, in March 2021. Jointly organised by ACCA and Brisbane's Institute of Modern Art, it considers the past fifteen years of Scarce's practice.
Past group exhibitions include Looking Glass: Judy Watson and Yhonnie Scarce, TarraWarra Museum of Art, Melbourne (2020); Ways of Being, Museum London, Ontario (2019); A Lightness of Spirit is the Measure of Happiness, ACCA, Melbourne (2018); Indigenous Australia: Masterworks from the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi (2018); Colony: Frontier Wars, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (2018); The National 2017: New Australian Art, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney (2017); Tarnanthi Festival of Contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art, Art Gallery of South Australia (2015).
Sherry Paik | Ocula | 2021