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Artists Videos Venues Acknowledgements


Victoria Lynn
Director, TarraWarra Museum of Art

Looking Glass: Judy Watson and Yhonnie Scarce has arisen from an invitation to TarraWarra Museum of Art from Jonathan Watkins, Director, Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, to collaborate on an exhibition of leading contemporary Aboriginal artists. We invited Arrernte and Kalkadoon curator Hetti Perkins to be the curatorial advisor for the project and she proposed Waanyi artist Judy Watson and Yhonnie Scarce from the Kokatha and Nukunu peoples, two of Australia’s most lyrical, poignant and innovative artists. While the global pandemic has caused all manner of disruptions, this exhibition has evolved in some wondrous ways. Presented in partnership with The Balnaves Foundation, it will mark the reopening of the Museum after eight months of closure, providing our audiences with the much-anticipated experience of art, humanity and homage to Country.

In March 2020, Ikon presented a suite of new works by Judy Watson, selected and installed by Hetti Perkins. A number of Watson’s works were made in response to visits she undertook to see English, Scottish and Irish sites of prehistorical significance—including standing stones, circles and hill figures at Stonehenge, Avebury, the Outer Hebrides and Orkney—as well as visits to The British Museum and The Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Cambridge. Watson’s work was presented at Ikon in a global context, with exhibitions by British artist John Newling, and Italian artist Mariateresa Sartori, being concurrently exhibited. Yhonnie Scarce was in Birmingham to undertake a residency and produce a new work for Ikon which was to mark the mid-point of these three shows. While these well laid plans were cut short by COVID-19, Watson’s exhibition re-opened in Ikon in August 2020, and Scarce will return there after the pandemic to complete her research into Birmingham’s history as a centre of glass manufacture and the place where scientific calculations that led to the development of the atom bomb were conducted during World War II.

Over the summer of 2020–2021, TarraWarra Museum of Art presents an expanded version of the exhibition, curated by Hetti Perkins. Watson’s paintings, installations and videos have returned from Ikon and are combined at TarraWarra with earlier works from leading private and public collections. Informed by the artist’s long-standing exploration of the threads of Aboriginal survival in the face of colonisation, many of the works on display are painted in various iterations of the colour blue, such as indigo, ultramarine, cobalt and turquoise. Referred to as ‘the colour of memory’ by the artist, these paintings hover with a liquid energy that brings the flow of Aboriginal culture to the surface.

Scarce’s works in this exhibition date from 2015 to 2020 and draw on the impact of the British nuclear tests in Maralinga, South Australia, between 1956 and 1963. Maralinga is the home of the Maralinga Tjarutja, a southern Pitjantjatjara people, who were devastated by these toxic blasts. At Woomera, in the South Australian desert, the place of Scarce’s birth, the British tested the missiles that could carry the bombs. Scarce’s glass installations refer to the many deaths of Aboriginal people, the crystallisation of the desert sand through the blasts, and the long-term effects of the testing on natural flora, fauna and terrain.

Watson and Scarce’s Aboriginal histories underpin their unique yet interrelated evocation of the metaphors of earth, fire, water and air. Summoned by the artists, these elements express the pain of Aboriginal people and the poisoning of the land. Yet the extraordinary luminescence of their works provides us with a deeply felt sense of resilience and survival. Watson and Scarce’s poignant works are united by translucent and porous surfaces that reveal layers of history, unearthed as it were, as enduring images of our collective memories. They remind us that when we look through glass, we not only see what lies beyond, but also a reflection of ourselves.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the artists Judy Watson and Yhonnie Scarce and the curator Hetti Perkins for creating this magical exhibition and for their patience with our bumpy journey through the pandemic. I also thank Jonathan Watkins, Director of Ikon, and his colleagues, Melanie Pocock, Thomas Ellmer, Linzi Stauvers and Rebecca Small for their initial invitation to us, and for their loyal commitment to the project.

This exhibition would not have been possible without the generous support of our Major Exhibition Partner The Balnaves Foundation, and I thank Hamish Balnaves, Neil and Diana Balnaves, and their fellow Trustees for their continued support of the Museum.

Beyond this summer season at the Museum, a significant tour of Looking Glass organised by NETS Victoria will be shown at venues across Australia. NETS also provided important support for the development of the exhibition and we thank them for their partnership, in particular Claire Watson, Director, and Shae Nagorcka, Exhibition Coordinator.

I also acknowledge the generous lenders to the exhibition, Bank Art Museum Moree Collection, Monash University Collection, courtesy of Monash University Museum of Art, National Gallery of Australia, Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, RMIT University Art Collection, Collection of The University of Queensland and the anonymous private lenders.

We are deeply grateful to the artists’ agents Josh Milani at Milani Gallery Brisbane; Dianne Tanzer and Nicola Stein, at THIS IS NO FANTASY, Melbourne and Jan Minchin at Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne.

We would also like to extend our thanks to Probuild for their generous support, particularly Rose Fleming and John Feehan who managed and supervised the installation of the grid in the ceiling of the North Gallery of the Museum.

TarraWarra Museum of Art acknowledges and thanks our founding patrons, Eva Besen AO and Marc Besen AC for their remarkable gift of the Museum and its collection; the Inaugural Foundation Supporter: the Besen Family Foundation; the TarraWarra Museum of Art Foundation; the Board of TarraWarra Museum of Art; the major sponsors: Arnold Bloch Leibler Lawyers and Advisers, Probuild, Deloitte Private, Chubb Insurance Australia and AON; our major partners: Paoli Smith Creative, IAS Fine Art Logistics and RACV Club; and our education program supporters: the Ullmer Family Foundation, the Scanlon Foundation, Escala Partners, Credit Suisse, the Bennelong Foundation, and The Erdi Foundation.

Finally, I extend my thanks to all the staff and volunteers at the Museum for their commitment to the Museum, and for their support and enthusiasm for Looking Glass: Judy Watson and Yhonnie Scarce.

Victoria Lynn


Myles Russell-Cook

Curator, Indigenous Art | National Gallery of Victoria
Member of NETS Victoria’s Artistic Program Advisory Committee

As the first partnership between National Exhibitions Touring Support (NETS) Victoria and TarraWarra Museum of Art, Looking Glass is an important exhibition that provides an opportunity to celebrate two of Australia’s boldest and most acclaimed contemporary artists — Brisbane-based Waanyi artist, Judy Watson, and Melbourne-based Kokatha and Nukunu artist, Yhonnie Scarce.

Both Scarce and Watson explore Australia’s deeply unsettling history of colonisation and the ongoing impact of European settlement on Culture and Country. Featuring newly commissioned installations as well as a body of pre-existing work from both artists, Looking Glass represents a significant engagement between TarraWarra Museum of Art and Ikon Gallery, Birmingham. The exhibition is a testament to the important work of both artists as well as the work of Arrernte and Kalkadoon curator and writer, Hetti Perkins. Looking Glass is a timely exhibition which tackles complex subject matter in a sensitive and thought-provoking way.

For NETS Victoria, Looking Glass demonstrates the organisation’s commitment to collaboration and supporting First Nations creative practice throughout Australia. NETS Victoria is the peak body for touring visual art, craft and design across Victoria and beyond; partnering and collaborating with art galleries, cultural institutions, artists and curators to present outstanding exhibitions and projects, complemented by high quality publications and programs.

NETS Victoria is both proud and excited to be giving regional and metropolitan audiences across Australia access to the important works of these two exciting, contemporary artists.

I strongly believe in this project’s potential to provide a transformative experience for people through the power of art. By touring this exhibition, NETS Victoria has enabled the exceptional work of TarraWarra Museum of Art, our exhibition partner, to reach audiences across Australia. The audiences reached through touring Looking Glass will be vast and the depth of their engagement will be significant.

On behalf of NETS Victoria, I would like to thank and pay tribute to the remarkable agility of our partner TarraWarra Museum of Art led by Director Victoria Lynn, working closely with Exhibitions Manager Michelle Mountain and Curator Anthony Fitzpatrick.

I likewise congratulate the Curator Hetti Perkins and the artists Yhonnie Scarce and Judy Watson, whose unique creative visions support new reflections, inspiring us to question, reimagine and explore, societal and historical truths.

We acknowledge Ikon Gallery, Birmingham for their tireless work alongside TarraWarra Museum of Art as exhibition planner and the Balnaves Foundation for their ongoing support of TarraWarra Museum of Art and as Major Exhibition Partner for Looking Glass.

Special thanks to Creative Victoria for their support of the exhibition tour and its development through the Exhibition Development Fund; the Gordon Darling Foundation for their support of the exhibition catalogue; the Australian Cultural Fund and the individuals who significantly donated to the fundraiser in support of the exhibition tour, particularly Carolyn Crossley, as well as all of NETS Victoria’s touring partners and supporting organisations who have made this tour possible.

Understanding the history of place is of the utmost importance in the work of both Yhonnie Scarce and Judy Watson. In differing ways, their practices demonstrate an unwavering and deeply personal connection to the land. It is my hope that audiences across Australia will leave this exhibition with a deeper understanding as to the depth, resilience and significance of Aboriginal custodianship of Country.

Myles Russell-Cook
Curator, Indigenous Art | National Gallery of Victoria
Member of NETS Victoria’s Artistic Program Advisory Committee

Published, November 2020

Yhonnie Scarce
Only a mother could love them 2016
hand blown glass
25.0 x 15.0 cm diameter each (variable sizes – approx.)
Monash University Collection
Purchased by the Monash Business School 2017
Courtesy of Monash University Museum of Art
Courtesy of the artist and THIS IS NO FANTASY, Melbourne