The Biennial Indigenous Ceramic Award winner at the Shepparton Art Museum in mid-Victoria is about to be announced on Saturday.

As a $20,000 acquisitive prize, the 2018 ICA is open to Indigenous groups and individual artists to propose an exhibition concept to be realised at SAM. Seven have been supported with an exhibition development fee of $2,200 each to produce new work which they proposed in March.

The 2018 ICA is the sixth of these biennial Awards, showcasing new and exciting developments in the field. It contributes to the Art Museum’s significant holdings of Indigenous ceramic art, and provides cultural exchange opportunities for Indigenous artists from all around Australia.
The ICA was established under the patronage of acclaimed artist, the late Dr Gloria Thanakupi Fletcher in 2007. As the Award is increasingly recognised as one of the country’s significant Indigenous cultural opportunities, there has been increasing participation in the Award from solo artists and collectives in both remote communities and urban centres since its first iteration.

In 2018, the seven artists were shortlisted and invited to present a substantial body of new work for display at SAM from 25 August to 11 November 2017. Artists are from across Australia, and their works reflect the diverse approaches to the ceramics medium in a contemporary context.

The Award will be judged by Stephen Gilchrist, Associate Lecturer of Indigenous Art at the University of Sydney; Genevieve Grieves, freelance curator, educator and consultant; and Dr Rebecca Coates, Director of SAM, and announced at the exhibition opening.

Previous Award 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 2018 shortlisted artists are:
Dean Cross (Worimi, ACT): Cross will be presenting a site-specific work that will be 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 will incorporate 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 will represent the Creation story of Larnankurrk (The Seven Sisters) of the Wergaia area.
Jan Goongaja Griffiths (Miriwoonga/Ngarinyman, WA): Jan Griffiths’s work will present scenes from her family history, including her late father’s experience as an Indigenous stockman working for rations at Victoria River Station, NT in the 1940s. The work will continue in her practice of creating small figurines, also seen recently at the NATSIAAs in Darwin.
Janet Fieldhouse (Torres Strait Islands, QLD): Fieldhouse, who is participating in her fifth Award, will deliver 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 will present lidded and unlidded vase forms which continue to explore Tiwi graphic mark making. Some lids will have symbolic sculptural pieces affixed. Puautijimi will also present representations of traditional pukamani poles.
Penny Evans (Gamilaraay/Gomeroi, NSW): Evans will deliver pieces working with Thanggall and Giinbay (large and small freshwater mussel) ceramic forms, utilising terracotta, black and white clays.
Yhonnie Scarce (Kokathat/Nukunu, VIC): Scarce will present a work that 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.

And the winner was Yhonnie Scarce, for her work, ‘Servant and Slave‘ (2018).

It 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 oppression and lived experiences from her own family.

The winning work, and that of the finalists, will be on display at SAM until 11 November 2018.

Meanwhile, in the Yarra Valley, the excellent Tarrawarra Museum of Art has a number of Indigenous artists answering curator Emily Cormack’s call in its Biennial:From Will to Form. Included are Vicki Couzens (VIC); artists from Erub Arts (Torres Strait); Julie Gough (TAS); and Dale Harding (QLD).

Stemming from the idea that art is ˜not a matter of reproducing or inventing forms, but of capturing forces’, the exhibition considers how the wild, intangible forces that animate behaviour might be present within an artwork. For some, ˜will’ is drawn from a relationship to country and earth, while for others it is located in the depths of the psyche. Other artists highlight the role of the body as both a conduit or concealer of willful forces.

To November 8th