Profile: Yhonnie Scarce

Yhonnie Scarce’s latest installation, Thunder Raining Poison – part of the TARNANTHI Festival at the Art Gallery of South Australia (AGSA) – is incredibly ambitious, featuring 2000 individually blownglass bush yams. Such a mammoth project could not be done alone, so Scarce enlisted the help of glass artists from the JamFactory.

The 2000 yams are suspended from a grid and are the first thing you see when you reach the bottom of the stairs at the AGSA. Thunder Raining Poison references the nuclear bomb tests that happened at Maralinga between 1953 and 1963. The work represents one of the bomb clouds dissipating. Scarce, who was born in Woomera, grew up having knowledge of the tests and their impact on Aboriginal people. “When I was approached about making a work for TARNANTHI, I felt strongly about making a work that was quite signi ficant to the history of South Australia,” she explains. Scarce majored in glass making at the South Australian School of Art and has always been attracted to the medium. “I didn’t go looking for glass,” she says. “I think glass found me.” It’s the physicality of working with glass that appeals to Scarce – creating it using her own breath and body. She also believes glass is the perfect metaphor for Indigenous people. “Glass is quite fragile but it can be quite tough. It’s quite resilient and so I think it’s the perfect medium to represent Aboriginal people.” A lot of her early work is small-scale and intimate but since Blood on the Wattle appeared in the 55th Venice Biennale satellite exhibition, Personal Structures: Time, Space, Existence, interest has been strong for her large-scale installations. is led to the work Weak In Colour But Strong In Blood (2013–14), being included in the 19th Sydney Biennale. “It’s a natural progression of my practice,” Scarce says. “I’m very open to making large-scale works but I am also in love with making smaller works.” Scarce often draws on her own experiences and family history in her work. “A lot of my work revolves around identity, loss and memory. It looks at the issues relating to colonisation and how it has a ected Aboriginal people in terms of history and the present day,” says Scarce. “I often reference family stories in my work and then the overall picture of issues relating to colonisation.” Scarce is particularly excited about being part of TARNANTHI and celebrating Aboriginal art in Australia. “I feel quite honoured to be part of such a powerful festival. To come home and be given the opportunity to create a large-scale work that makes a strong statement about the nuclear tests that happened at Maralinga is exciting.” Yhonnie Scarce: Thunder Raining Poison Art Gallery of South Australia Sunday, October 8 to Sunday, January 17

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