The peak body protecting and promoting the Australian visual arts sector

Yhonnie Scarce

Yhonnie Scarce is one of the first contemporary Australian artists to explore the political and aesthetic power of glass.

Yhonnie Scarce was born in Woomera, South Australia, and belongs to the Kokatha and Nukunu peoples.

Describing her work as ‘politically motivated and emotionally driven’ Scarce’s work often references the ongoing effects of colonisation on Aboriginal people. Her work explores the far-reaching impacts of government policies and historical events that Indigenous communities have witnessed. Bush foods feature frequently as unique anthropomorphic forms representing the body, culture and tradition.

Recently, her research has focused on the British nuclear tests carried out in Maralinga, near where Scarce was born, during the 1950s and 60s. Scarce returned to her birthplace to investigate the effects the radiation has had on the local Indigenous population and landscape.

She is currently showing as part of Colony: Frontier Wars at the National Gallery of Victoria until 2 September 2018; and as part of two travelling exhibitions: Defying Empire: 3rd National Indigenous Art Triennialat the Museum and Art Gallery of the NT until 15 July, and then University of Queensland Art Museum, Brisbane from 28 July; and Indigenous Australia: Masterworks from the National Gallery of Australia at the National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi, India until 26 August 2018. Earlier this year, she was shown in Chaos & Order at RMIT Gallery and was represented at Art Basel Hong Kong by THIS IS NO FANTASY + dianne tanzer gallery.

In 2017 Scarce received the $20,0000 Guirguis New Art Prize 2017 for her work ‘The More Bones The Better’ and presented her solo exhibition Hollowing Earth, curated by Victoria Lynn at the Tarrawarra Museum of Art in Healesville, Victoria. Other recent exhibitions include The National 2017: New Australian Art at AGNSW, I Was Here at Fremantle Arts Centre, and Intrinsic Properties: Inherent Vice at Belconnen Arts Centre, Canberra, (2017); Sovereignty at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, For Country: For Nation at the Australian War Memorial and Lifelines: Indigenous Contemporary Art from Australia, Musées de la Civilisation, Québec, Canada (2016).

Her work is held in the collections of the National Gallery Australia, National Gallery of Victoria, The Art Gallery of South Australia, Flinders University Art Museum, the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, and the University of South Australia and in several private collections both internationally and throughout Australia.

Scarce holds a Bachelor of Visual Arts (Honours) from the University of South Australia, Adelaide, and a Master of Fine Arts from Monash University, Melbourne.

In this video, Scarce chats to NAVA about the evolution of her practice, the love of working with glass and the importance of being about to tell the stories of racism and discrimination that continue to have impact on Aboriginal peoples.


Production: Dominic Kirkwood

Photo: Daniel Boud