Looking Glass: Judy Watson and Yhonnie Scarce

‘Looking Glass: Judy Watson and Yhonnie Scarce’ is an exhibition at TarraWarra Museum of Art showcasing an impactful display of works by artists Judy Watson and Yhonnie Scarce, which centre on the theme of the four major elemental forces of nature – earth, water, fire and air. Watson and Scarce both carry within them a deep love and lament for Country, which they bring to visualisation across a beautiful selection of large-scale paintings, video and unique sculptural installations made with glass. ‘Looking Glass’ is curated by Arrernte and Kalkadoon woman Hetti Perkins and is on view at TarraWarra Museum of Art in Victoria until 8 March 2021.

Judy Watson, standing stone, kangaroo grass, bush string, 2020, acrylic, graphite on canvas, 246 x 181cm Photograph: Carl Warner. Courtesy the artist and Milani Gallery, Brisbane

“The seductive beauty of Watson’s and Scarce’s works belies their powerful message about the sustained campaign of the destruction of country, culture and community in Aboriginal Australia—their work is a kind of ‘tender trap’. With the devastating evidence of climate change in Australia, manifest in apocalyptic wildfires and storms, this exhibition delivers an urgent message,” says Perkins.

Judy Watson is a Brisbane-based artist, whose matrilineal family are Waanyi Peoples from north-west Queensland. Through the means of her creative practice and drawing knowledge from site, archives and collective memory, Watson’s politically charged works reference “the impact of colonial history and the institutional discrimination of Aboriginal people, celebrates Aboriginal cultural practice, and registers our precarious relationship with the environment,” notes the Museum.

“Art as a vehicle for invention and social change can be many things, it can be soft, hard, in-your-face confrontational, or subtle and discreet. I try and choose the latter approach for much of my work, a seductive beautiful exterior with a strong message like a deadly poison dart that insinuates itself into the consciousness of the viewer without them being aware of the package until it implodes and leaks its contents,” shares Watson.

Yhonnie Scarce, Death Zephyr, 2017, hand blown glass yams, nylon and steel armature, dimensions variable. Installation view, The National 2017: New Australian Art, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney. Photograph: © AGNSW. Courtesy the artist and THIS IS NO FANTASY, Melbourne

Yhonnie Scarce belongs to the Kokatha and Nukunu peoples of South Australia. Scarce’s family history also holds a prominent place in her artistic practice. Working across photography and glass blowing, Scarce draws on the strengths of her ancestors to bring important stories from the past to the present and explores the effects of colonisation on Aboriginal people in the past and today, such as the forced removal and relocation of Aboriginal people from their homelands and taking of Aboriginal children from their families, the Stolen Generations.

In TarraWarra’s North Gallery audiences will be mesmerised by Scarce’s breathtaking installation of 1,000 glass yams suspended overhead. In all of its shimmering beauty though, we are confronted with the appalling historical truth that radioactive nuclear poison from a bomb blast at Maralinga was allowed to rain down on Aboriginal Peoples of the Maralinga Tjarutja, located in the remote western areas of South Australia.

Ella Havelka with Yhonnie Scarce’s Cloud Chamber, 2020, installation view, ‘Looking Glass: Judy Watson and Yhonnie Scarce’. Photograph: Sean Fennessy. Courtesy the artist and THIS IS NO FANTASY, Melbourne

Special online event: ‘Looking Glass: A Virtual Celebration’ is scheduled for Sunday 20 December from 4-5pm and will open with a Welcome to Country and Smoking Ceremony by Senior Wurundjeri Elder, Aunty Joy Murphy Wandin AO. Followed by a conversation with ‘Looking Glass curator, Perkins and the artists Watson and Scarce. Audiences will then be invited to see the premiere performance of ‘Fragmented’ by Australian Ballet and Bangarra alumni Ella Havelka, who inspired by ‘Looking Glass’ will be dancing to an original score by composers Eric Avery and Ronald Smith.

Tune in free via TWMA’s website or Facebook page, and click here if you would like to receive event notifications for the special event.