Yhonnie Scarce: The Light of Day

Yhonnie Scarce: The Light of Day

Internationally recognised Kokatha and Nukunu artist Yhonnie Scarce brings her luminous and powerful works to The Art Gallery of Western Australia in the largest-ever ensemble of her collected glass and mixed-media works seen in Australia, for the Perth Festival in 2024.

One of the country's leading contemporary artists, Scarce is known for her large-scale, unforgettable glass installations that reveal hidden stories of Australia's foray into nuclear testing, and the impacts of colonisation on First Nations people, illuminating the artist's desire to bring the darkest shadows of Australia's past into the direct light of day.

The sheer scale of these works – installations of glass yams hung like oversized chandeliers in the gallery space – highlight the artistry and aesthetic beauty of the glass form. Through these evocative installations, Scarce's work makes visible the story of the dehumanising of First Nations families and communities told through the lens of archival imagery from her photographic collection, mingled with her handmade glass objects, both at an intimate and phenomenal scale.

The story of the works, and Scarce's broader practice, illuminate the effects of uranium mining and disruption sites, both internationally and locally – particularly drawing attention to the site of Maralinga and the often-unknown impact of nuclear testing impacting Scarce's birthplace of Woomera, South Australia.

The scale and beauty of Yhonnie Scarce: The Light of Day will enthral visitors, as the stories of the works bring a healing light to Australia's recent history. Scarce's practice and works more broadly contend with the impact of colonisation on First Nations people in Australia and globally, by utilising archival imagery from her personal photographic collection and found objects to illuminate our shared histories of indentured labour and cultural and familial trauma.

The fiercely intellectual and uncompromising narratives of Scarce's practice transcend the local, and as the world again tilts towards potentially lethal global nuclear conflict, Yhonnie Scarce: The Light of Day is a timely reminder of our need to remember the past in order not to repeat those mistakes in the future.

The exhibition runs from 2 February to 19 May 2024. The Perth Festival runs from 9 February – 3 March 2024.

AGWA would like to acknowledge the support of the Re families from European Foods Wholesalers (properties) and The Re Store (Northbridge and Leederville).

Yhonnie Scarce: The Light of Day catalogue cover


The exhibition is accompanied by a new monograph published by AGWA in collaboration with Power Publishing. The 170-page hardcover publication features full-colour plate images, fold outs and essays by Timmah Ball, Kelly Gellatly, Natalie Harkin and Tamsin Hong, with an interview between exhibition curator Clothilde Bullen and Yhonnie Scarce. RRP $75.

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Exhibition Resource

The Yhonnie Scarce: The Light of Day Exhibition Resource has been designed by AGWA Learning to offer viewers of all ages deeper engagement with the artist and their work. The resource provides an insight into the exhibition, an understanding of the artist's concepts and practice, as well as connections to history and the wider world. For Teachers and Educators, this resource supports learning alongside the exhibition and should be used in conjunction with the MAKING and RESPONDING Resource which offers curriculum- linked activities, questions, and research ideas to help guide students’ further engagement in the Gallery and classroom.

Yhonnie Scarce_Photo: Janelle Low
Yhonnie Scarce. Photo: Janelle Low.

About Yhonnie Scarce

Yhonnie Scarce was born in Woomera, South Australia, and belongs to the Kokatha and Nukunu peoples.

Scarce’s interdisciplinary practice explores the political nature and aesthetic qualities of glass and photography. Her work illuminates the history and impact of nuclear testing within the Woomera Prohibited Area in South Australia, referencing the ongoing impact of the removal and relocation of Aboriginal people from their homelands as a result. Family history is central to Scarce’s work; the artist revealing narratives critiquing the indentured labour her family members experienced.

Scarce’s professional profile has risen exponentially in recent years. In 2023, her work was exhibited in The Armory Show, New York and in 2022 at IKON Gallery Birmingham, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, and has been acquired by the Foundation Opale, Switzerland. Remember Royalty (2018) was exhibited in A Year In Art: Australia 1992 at the Tate, London and Missile Park (2021) exhibited at Gropius Bau Berlin. Scarce has also held major solo exhibitions at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art and the Institute of Modern Art.

Her work is now held in most State galleries as well as Tate Gallery London, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, TarraWarra Museum of Art, Flinders University Art Museum, Shepparton Art Museum, and the University of South Australia.

On Saturday 27 August, the Gallery is open 10am-3pm only as we prepare for the AGWA Foundation Gala supporting women in the arts. Some exhibition access will be disrupted with two Tracks We Share ground floor galleries closed. AGWA Rooftop bar will be closed, reopening at 2pm Sunday. Details