Sculptural figures (4), 'Tahrir Square souvenirs', porcelain, made by Penny Byrne, Australia, 2011
The impact of social media via the internet has had a profound effect in the ways people keep in contact and conduct their private and business lives. Of particular importance is the developing trend in using 'Facebook' to achieve political aims; the widespread success of which has led to massive and lasting change in the world. These four ceramic figures, 'Souvenir [of] Tahrir Square' document this intangible but important phenomenon.
The three male and one female 'Souvenir [of] Tahrir Square' figures were originally vintage porcelain figures designed to decorate mantelpieces and sideboards in domestic interiors. While the ceramic artist Penny Byrne has reconfigured and coloured the figures in recognition of Egypt's removal of a dictator, the inclusion of the Facebook symbol on the musical instruments held by the figures recognises social media's pivotal role in providing the ability to communicate and organise mass protests. Adding to the message is the the figures' conversion by Penny Byrne from their apolitical romantic idealism to highly politicised statements which introduces a shocking and powerful quality. The focus on social media and 'Facebook' specifically make the figures relevant to any discussion of communication and the importance and impact of social media in the world Â? from fuelling the 2011 London riots, to securing the release of Ingrid Betancourt from FARC in Columbia, and empowering protests at Bouazizi's self-immolation that sparked Tunisia's successful 'Jasmine revolution'.
Paul Donnelly, Curator design & society
David Kirkpatrick, 'The Facebook Effect', Simon & Shcuster, 2011
The sculptural figures were made by Penny Byrne in Australia, 2011.
Since 2009 Penny Byrne has made a name from her political statements created from re-purposed vintage porcelain sculptures. Byrne is a practising conservator and as an artist she uses these skills...
"to manipulate and reconfigure vintage ceramic figurines. The results are politically charged and exquisitely beautiful objects as Byrne subverts the innocence of the original piece, tackling political, social and environmental issues, whilst imbuing them with a hearty dose of humour and wit. Her works are 'like a swift, sharp slap to the face: heavy handed and straight to the point' " Tracey Clement Artlink, vol 27 #2, 2007, p.93
With the four figures in this acquisition, Byrne has 'dressed' them in protest garb and posing as imaginary souvenirs from Tahrir Square, the central place of the Egyptian revolution. The eventual overthrow of Hosni Mubarak in February 2011 followed the ousting of Algeria's dictator in January and subsequent events forming what has bcome known known as the 'Arab Spring' which continued to sweep through other Arab countries during the year resulting in regime and policy change across the region.
http://www.abc.net.au/arts/stories/s2884544.htm (accessed Oct 2011)
Tracey Clement Artlink, vol 27 #2, 2007, p.93
http://www.ssfa.com.au/exhibitions/112/ (accessed Oct 2011)
Biography of Penny Byrne
Born 1965, Victoria
1997 Bachelor of Law, La Trobe University, Melbourne
1990 Graduate Diploma (Ceramics and Glass Conservation and Restoration) West Dean College, West Sussex, United Kingdom
1987 Bachelor of Arts (Fine Art Ceramics), RMIT University, Melbourne
AWARDS, PRIZES AND GRANTS
2011 Woollahra Small Sculpture Prize, Sydney, finalist
2011 NAVA Grant: Janet Holmes Ã Court Artists' Grant
2010 City of Hobart Art Prize, Hobart, finalist
2009 Stan + Maureen Duke Award, Gold Coast City Gallery, Gold Coast, finalist
2009 Woollahra Small Sculpture Prize, Sydney, finalist
2008 Woollahra Small Sculpture Prize, Sydney, finalist
2008 Stan and Maureen Duke Award, finalist
2008 The Fishers Ghost Art Award, Campbelltown Arts Centre, Sydney, finalist
2007 Ripe, Art & Australia and ANZ Emerging Artists, finalist
2006 Warrnambool Regional Art Gallery New Social Commentaries 06 exhibition, Warrnambool, finalist
2005 Linden Post Card Show, Linden Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne, Postcard Winner
2002 Pat Emery Award for Emerging Ceramicists, Victorian Ceramic Group, Honourable Mention
2001 Pat Emery Award for Emerging Ceramicists, Victorian Ceramic Group, Honourable Mention
1988 Meat Market Craft Centre Ceramics Studio Residency (12 months)
2011-12 Penny Byrne: Commentariat, Deakin University Art Gallery, Melbourne; Geelong Gallery, Geelong; Warrnambool Gallery, Warrnambool, Mildura Art Gallery, Mildura
2011-12 Political Porcelain, Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House, Canberra
2011 Plausible Deniability, Sullivan+Strumpf Fine Art, Sydney
2010 ILL-Gotten Gains, Sullivan+Strumpf Fine Art, Sydney
2009 Interesting Times, Sullivan+Strumpf Fine Art, Sydney
2008 Collateral Damage, Melbourne Art Fair, Sullivan+Strumpf Fine Art, Royal Exhibition Centre, Melbourne
2007 Blood, Sweat and Fears, Sullivan+Strumpf Fine Art, Sydney
2006 Penny Byrne, Mantelpiece, Linden Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne