Yhonnie Scarce wins GNAP17 art prize

Yhonnie Scarce was announced as the winner of GNAP17 (Guirguis New Art Prize 2017) at the gala exhibition opening at the Art Gallery of Ballarat on Fri 24 March 2017 for her work, The More Bones the Better, 2016.

GNAP17 judge, Simon Maidmnt, Senior Curator, Contemporary Art, National Gallery of Victoria said, ” The winning work by Yhonnie Scarce captures the sensitivity to materials she displays throughout her artistic practice. The blown and shattered glass elements are a delicate contrast to the shocking and little discussed histories of Aboriginal exploitation and abuse in the name of science in Australia.”  Adding, “Engaging this topic, this work is haunting, in the same way those lived and documented experiences continue to haunt the collective unconscious of this country. Yhonnie Scarce’s work, The More Bones the Better 2016, I believe makes an important contribution to the Collection of Federation University Australia and will engage and move diverse audiences with its technical accomplishment, beauty and message.”

Yhonnie Scarce was born in Woomera SA and belongs to the Kokatha and Nukunu peoples. Scarce holds a Master of Fine Arts from Monash University. She is one of the first contemporary Australian artists to explore the political and aesthetic power of glass, describing her work as ‘politically motivated and emotionally driven’.


Scarce embraces a non-traditional approach to glass blowing using her medium as more than a mere material. Applying the technical rigours of traditional glass blowing in an innovative and unconventional manner, Scarce’s glass objects act as a lens and a mirror to reflect and expose the tragedies of Australia’s colonisation and, in particular, explore the lives and histories of Aboriginal Australians.  Hand-blown glass is shaped, engraved, painted and smashed to represent indigenous fruits and vegetables such as bush bananas, bush plums and long yams, symbolic of Scarce’s people’s culture and traditions. While these elongated shapes on the one hand represent fruit and vegetables, gathered and grouped as in the gathering of bush food, Scarce’s torso-like bodies and forms are glass ‘gatherings’ representative of the gathering of people.   Here, the many brittle bodies act as a metaphor for the collection, experimentation and examinations undertaken by government authorities on Aboriginal communities researched by Scarce.  Exposing a variety of ethnographic studies, examining the use of scientific interventions on Indigenous cultures, Scarce also revealed Government sanctioned illegal drug testing of children in orphanages and other dubious medical practices undertaken on indigenous prison inmates.

Scarce’s gatherings also reflect the impact of colonisation and the relentless conjuring and litany of abuses suffered by Aboriginal people. The More Bones the Better metaphorically looks at these situations and poses questions of what was undertaken and investigated in these laboratories.

The GNAP17 exhibition is on at the Art Gallery Ballarat until 14th May.