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Following Judy Watson’s exhibition at Ikon (4 March — 6 September 2020) and Yhonnie Scarce’s residency at Ikon (March 2020 – ), TarraWarra Museum of Art, Healesville, Australia presents Looking Glass, an important and timely exhibition which brings together two of Australia’s most acclaimed contemporary artists.

At its heart, the exhibition is both a love song and a lament for Country; a fantastical alchemy of the elemental forces of earth, water, fire and air. Watson’s ochres, charcoal and pigments, pooled and washed upon flayed canvases, have a natural affinity and synergy with Scarce’s fusion of fire, earth and air. Watson and Scarce express the inseparable oneness of Aboriginal people with Country, a familial relationship established for millennia.

Together these artists offer a far-ranging and holistic portrait of Country where the creation and experience of art recalls the lived, remembered and inherited history of Aboriginal people. Yet, while their works may refer to specific events, their enigmatic and often intimate forms, gestures and marks also imply an immersive timelessness outside of a linear chronology; an existence today that is more than the ‘now’. Colloquially, this is often referred to as the Dreaming, an extraordinary perception of the connection of Country, community and culture.

Watson and Scarce, like all Indigenous Australians, share recent and personally painful histories of the destruction, exploitation and degradation of not only the land, but the people of the land. Essentially, this exhibition is about Australia’s secret and dirty war—a battle fought on many fronts from colonial massacres to Stolen Generations, from the Maralinga bomb tests to the climate emergency. In their works, the artists poignantly remind us how the pursuit of the Great Australian Dream is not what it seems. It is, in reality, a nightmare, a shimmering mirage, a candle in the coming storm.

Organised by Ikon and TarraWarra Museum of Art with curator Hetti Perkins.

This project is supported by the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria, as well as receiving development assistance from NETS Victoria’s Exhibition Development Fund 2019, supported by the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria, and by Creative Partnerships Australia through the Australian Cultural Fund.

The Looking Glass exhibition tours to Flinders University Museum of Art (26 April – 2 July 2021), Cairns Art Gallery (11 December 2021 – 20 Feb 2022), Queensland University of Technology (QUT) Art Museum (12 March – 15 May 2022), Plimsoll Gallery (TAS) (12 August – 23 October 2022), Mildura Arts Centre (8 June – 6 August 2023) and Wangaratta Art Gallery (26 August – 22 October 2023).