Yhonnie Scarce wins Guirguis New Art Prize

Yhonnie Scarce, The More Bones the Better, 2016 editorialThe Guirguis New Art Prize (GNAP) has announced Melbourne-based artist Yhonnie Scarce and her work, The More Bones the Better as the winner of the $20,000  prestigious art prize.

Named after Ballarat surgeon, Mr. Mark Guirguis, the Prize is made possible through his pledge to Federation University’s Arts Academy in 2008 to administer five $20,000 national art prizes for the city, and to celebrate the significance of contemporary art and ‘living’ culture in the city of Ballarat.

“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,” said Simon Maidment, Senior Curator, Contemporary Art, National Gallery of Victoria (NGV), and GNAP Judge.

“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, 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 embraces a non-traditional approach to glass-blowing using glass as more than a mere material. Acting as a lens and a mirror, Scarce reflects and exposes the tragedies of Australia’s colonisation.

Within her research, Scarce encountered a variety of ethnographic studies examining the use of scientific interventions amongst Indigenous cultures. This work metaphorically looks at these situations and poses questions of what might have gone on in such laboratories.

Now in its third iteration, the Guirguis New Art Prize exhibition will inspire and challenge audiences with work displayed across Ballarat’s two public gallery sites – Federation University’s Post Office Gallery and the Art Gallery of Ballarat. As with the previous two prizes, the finalists were selected by way of a consultative model, whereby curators at major Australian public galleries were invited to recommend artists for shortlisting.

From a pool of sixty artists, fourteen artists were selected as finalists for the 2017 exhibition and prize, including Abdul Abdullah and Jumaadi from New South Wales; Joel Arthur and Peter Vandermark from the ACT; Carly Fischer, Natasha Johns-Messenger, Yhonnie Scarce, Esther Stewart and the art collective DAMP (Narelle Desmond, Debra Kunda, Sharon Goodwin and James Lynch) from Victoria; Julia McInerney and Julia Robinson from South Australia; Brian Robinson from Queensland; and Erin Coates and Alistair Rowe from Western Australia.

Works on show include video, sculpture, painting, photography, textiles, installation and sound, with several hybridised mixed-media installations which explore richly layered ideas surrounding illusion, domestic and gender issues, indigenous culture and traditions, as well as fantasy, fact and fiction, life and death, and politics.

“GNAP is now firmly positioned on the national visual arts calendar,” said “Shelley Hinton, Curator of the Post Office Gallery. “Since the Prize’s inaugural launch in 2013, GNAP has supported forty artists working in new and emerging media and technologies, from every state and territory in Australia,”

“As a result of Mark Guirguis’ initiative and acquisitions from GNAP winning artists, it will represent an important period of collecting of Australian contemporary art – a wonderful legacy from Mark Guirguis for FedUni and the local and broader community.”

The Guirguis New Art Prize is on display at the Art Gallery of Ballarat and the Post Office Gallery until 14 May 2017. Entry is free. For more information, visit: www.artgalleryofballarat.com.au or www.federation.edu.au for details.

Image: Yhonnie Scarce, The More Bones the Better, 2016, six medical beakers, tubing & hand blown glass. Dimensions variable. Courtesy the artist and This Is No Fantasy + dianne tanzer gallery, Melbourne.