In contrast to the physical (and social) distance that permeates our present time, the exhibition’s centrepiece, ‘Sink Like a Stone’, is a material creation born of collaboration: in 2019, Dr Byrne was invited to paint a large-scale work at the CMLA conference. Over the course of the three days the artwork that would eventually become ‘Sink Like a Stone’ was inspired by, responsive to and reflective of the community who observed and participated in its creation. Conversations were had, opinions offered, and an artistic direction was determined in collaboration with those present and invested in both the process and the artwork that would emerge from it. A poem crafted by Malcolm Gordon became the song that accompanies the piece, adding another layer of collaboration that invites contemplation.
Completed through the experience of worshipping in isolation and assembled alongside this piece at Whitley, eight other large works will serve as the pillars of the exhibition, as Byrne re-members the idea of worshipping in community. This work explores the pillars of experience in her memory of public worship: “The memory of what it was like being in church over the years has returned at various times in my experience of being separate from a faith community – anchoring me in my experience of worship – as I work in the solitude of the studio.” Smaller works are planned to enter the exhibition at different times, moving in and out without warning and prompting reflection on what it is like to be surprised by the presence of the unimagined in worship. As it hangs over time the exhibition invites us to consider the possibility that pillars of our community may be shifting, emerging from the recognition of our shared experience, rather than resting on the acknowledgement of any individual pursuit.
As we gather together again in different ways, the works themselves – and the stories they invite – offer a gentle invitation to re-member the experience of being in worship alongside other people in a time that necessitates the physical separation of our bodies.
This free exhibition will run from August through October at Whitley College (50 The Avenue, Parkville). Members of the public are warmly invited to attend (government restrictions permitting). For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr Libby Byrne
Libby’s art making practice is a means to explore questions of meaning and existence that capture her attention. Within the studio she is seeking to discover ideas, images and experiences that will extend the way she thinks, perceives and responds to these questions. Within her practice she explores that which is particular and also shared in the experience of being human, whilst seeking and sometimes finding the presence of God in those places. In this way, her studio practice is theology in the making.
Over the past decade Libby has worked as an art therapist in the public health sector in Melbourne, with a particular focus in Palliative Care. Libby has specialized in assisting people to use art as a means of honouring and reflecting on significant life experiences as well as creating opportunities to develop meaningful and personal ritual in and around the experience of death. Libby now works as a Lecturer, teaching and researching in the Art Therapy Programs at La Trobe University.
Learn more about Dr Byrne and her work at libbybyrne.com.au.