The winning work was selected for the way it speaks to difficult histories with a delicacy and resolved sophistication of language and material. In an extension of her previous work, Scarce rethinks the traditions of fine porcelain and tea. Her broken and intentionally fragmented porcelain cups appear inhabited or co-opted by a series of black glass forms. She invites us to reflect on past oppressions and lived experiences from her own family.
The $20,000 Indigenous Ceramic Award (ICA) is the most prestigious national award for Indigenous ceramics, showcasing new and exciting developments in the field. The acquisitive prize attracted ceramic works from Indigenous artists across Australia.
Judges shortlisted seven artists from a wide field of contemporary Indigenous artists working in the ceramics medium. Their approaches highlighted the rich and diverse ways that artists understand and extend the possibilities of the medium of ceramics within our contemporary context and times. The 2018 finalists are:
- Dean Cross (Worimi, ACT): Cross presents a site-specific work that is responsive to the architecture that confines it and will continue to respond directly to the situation it is presented in. Cross’ work seeks to challenge the Western canon of memorial statuary.
- Jackie Wirramanda (Wergaia, VIC): Wirramanda’s work incorporates the colours of Lake Tyrell, a site which is both locally and culturally significant to the artist; it is a place referred to by the old people as one where the earth met the heavens. The work represents the Creation story of Larnankurrk (seven sisters) of Wergaia area.
- Jan Goongaja Griffiths (Miriwoonga/Ngarinyman, WA): Goongaja Griffiths’ work presents scenes from her family history, including her father’s experience as an Indigenous stockman working for rations at Victoria River Station, NT in the 1940s. The work continues in her practice of creating small figurines.
- Janet Fieldhouse (Torres Strait Islands, QLD): Fieldhouse, who is participating in her fifth Award, presents large scale sculptural forms, exploring themes such as the narrative of storytelling, abstract scarification, the beauty of landscapes, and sharing of knowledge.
- Jock Puautjimi (Tiwi, NT): Puautjimi presents lidded and unlidded vase forms which continue to explore Tiwi graphic mark making. Some lids have symbolic sculptural pieces affixed. Puautijimi also presents representations of traditional pukamani poles.
- Penny Evans (Gamilaraay/Gomeroi, NSW): Evans’s pieces work with Thanggall and Giinbay (large and small freshwater mussel) ceramic forms, utilising terracotta, black and white clays.
- Yhonnie Scarce (Kokathat/Nukunu, VIC): Scarce’s work combines her signature glass vessels with ceramic forms, making reference to the oppressive behaviours that occurred during Aboriginal domestics employment, and how Aboriginal women were kept; hidden, covered and imprisoned.
“We congratulate each of the shortlisted artists presented in the 2018 Indigenous Ceramic Award,” said the Judging Panel. “We were moved, delighted, and impressed with the calibre and diversity of approaches and artworks.”
“Each work in its own way rewrites the language of ceramics inflected through a personal cultural specificity. Some of the works have a close engagement with Country, others with post-colonial narratives, while others celebrate deep memory of people, culture and place.”
Dr Rebecca Coates, Director Shepparton Art Museum, said the Award 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.
“The Award celebrates and supports the rich and diverse use of the ceramic medium by Indigenous artists and acknowledges the special industry of ceramic art. Each shortlisted artist has presented a substantial body of new work for display,” said Dr Coates.
The judges for the 2018 ICA Award were 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. Project Curator is Belinda Briggs, Shepparton Art Museum’s Community Engagement Officer – Indigenous, working with Anna Briers, Curator, SAM.
The sixth in the series of biennial Indigenous Ceramics Awards which have been held at SAM since 2007, previous winners include Kaiela Arts artists, Jack Anselmi and Cynthia Hardie in 2016; Bankstown Koori Elders Group in 2014; Janet Fieldhouse in 2011 and 2007; and Danie Mellor in 2009.
The winning work, and that of the finalists, will be on display at the Shepparton Art Museum until 11 November 2018. For more information, visit: www.sheppartonartmuseum.com.au for details.
Image: Yhonnie Scarce, Servant and Slave, 2018 (detail). porcelain and hand-blown glass, dimensions variable – courtesy the artist and This Is No Fantasy, Dianne Tanzer + Nicola Stein, Melbourne – photo by Christian Capurro