The Shepparton Art Museum (SAM) has announced the winner of the 2018 Indigenous Ceramic Award (ICA) as Yhonnie Scarce for her sculptural work Servant and Slave (2018). ICA supports Indigenous artists to pursue aspirational projects in the medium, and provides a national platform to share personal, historical and deep cultural learnings from artist and Country.
Made from porcelain and hand-blown glass, Scarce’s work deconstructs the traditions associated with tea and fine porcelain through a post-colonial lens. Servant and Slave acts as a simultaneously poignant and empowering visual metaphor: round black glass objects that are reminiscent of teapots, snake their way out through the holes in intentionally broken and torn white ceramic forms that are in turn reminiscent of teacups. Some of these teacups show signs of intense distress, as if the teapots they once harboured fought or exploded from their cover, leaving them behind injured and alone.
Placed on a white plinth, the black forms become the focal point of the work, the fragile white porcelain forced into the background. Scarce captures the emotional tension of a centuries-long historical struggle that still continues today in a single sculptural work, informed significantly by the past oppressions and lived experienced within her own family.
Valued at $20,000, the ICA is the most prestigious prize for Indigenous ceramicists in Australia. Scarce was selected from a list of six other finalists who demonstrated a rich and diverse interpretation of the potential the ceramic medium can offer an artist, as explained by SAM Director Dr Rebecca Coates. They are as follows: Dean Cross (Worimi, ACT), Jackie Wirramanda (Wergaia, VIC), Jan Goongaja Griffiths (Miriwoonga/Ngarinyman, WA), Janet Fieldhouse (Torres Strait Islands, QLD), Jock Puautjimi (Tiwi, NT), and Penny Evans (Gamilaraay/Gomeroi, NSW)
The judging panel comprised of Stephen Gilchrist, Associate Lecturer of Indigenous Art, University of Sydney; Genevieve Grieves, Manager, First Peoples Department at Museums Victoria; and Dr Rebecca Coates, Director, Shepparton Art Museum.
Servant and Slave, along with the works of the finalists, is on display at the Shepparton Art Museum from 25 August to 11 November 2018. The ICA Project curator and SAM’s Indigenous Community Engagement Officer, Belinda Briggs worked alongside SAM’s Curator Anna Briers to organise the show.