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Penny Byrne

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Love in a time of Corona by Penny Byrne

“Love in a Time of Corona”

InspirationLove in a Time of Corona is a 1.1m cast bronze sculpture made by artist Penny Byrne in 2016, and originally titled, Love is a Battlefield. Two days before Victorian State Premier Daniel Andrews declared a state of emergency in Victoria in March this year, Byrne retitled one of two artist’s proofs of this work to reflect the current social situation surrounding the coronavirus, a pandemic which has caused unprecedented world-wide social and economic disruption.

On March 14, Byrne posted on Instagram: “I’m renaming this work “Love in a Time of Corona” with polished golden raw bronze gas masks and a lush satin black patina, this work speaks to our times.” Byrne has since commented, “People’s response to this post was immediate and heartfelt. It was right at the start of the lockdown and I was feeling very worried and unsure of the future. All my art and conservation income streams had either been cancelled or postponed indefinitely. All that remained was my RMIT University Masters by Research, so I set about looking into pandemic related art and came across the novel by Gabrìel Garcia Márquez Love in the Time of Cholera. The new title for my a/p bronze references this novel. “

Despite its earlier incarnation, Love in a Time of Corona is a poignant 2020 work which reflects the heightened level of community fear around COVID19, while speaking to the social isolation brought about by lockdown restrictions. The two bronze figures embrace without touching, a metaphor for social distancing, while their masks prevent the natural desire to connect on a physical level. The gold patina plays to the value and scarcity of cheap and easily fabricated personal protective equipment (PPE), foreshadowing a unique crisis in a global market.

Alongside the new language and acronyms synonymous with the pandemic, Love in a Time of Corona, delivers a disturbing portrait of the future of humanity. As the planet deals with a global health crisis, discussions around improved air quality re-emerge, as skies clear due to the reduction in plane fuel emissions. In a strange twist, though we have cleaner air to breath, face masks are now worn to prevent the inhalation of air expelled by human lungs. This work embodies the realities and absurdities of the global pandemic and the unique characteristics of the year 2020, a year which will become a feature of 21st century health, economic, political, global and social studies in decades to come.

The edition which has been renamed is the artist’s proof 1/2. There are three other editions titled “Love is a Battlefield” and these will remain titled as such.

Artist Bio: Penny Byrne is a contemporary artist based in Melbourne, Australia. Her practice is grounded in the repurposing of found objects, deploying materials such as antique porcelain figurines, vintage and contemporary toys, bronze and glass to create small and large scale sculptural works which are engaging, irreverent and often disarmingly humorous.

Byrne’s practice interrogates social, political and humanitarian issues. Her commentary has examined current affairs such as the incarceration of inmates at Guantanamo Bay, the war on terror, narcotics trafficking and inter-continental political alliances. Her recent practice has turned its attention to large-scale protests and political activism around the world that address matters of fundamental human rights.

Byrne’s undergraduate law degree and subsequent post-graduate career in ceramics conservation underpins a highly articulate and politically driven practice. A blend of intellectual and intuitive thinking results in her unique capacity to challenge the boundaries and assumptions of contemporary art practice.

Penny Byrne has developed more than 15 solo exhibitions since 2006 and has been selected for numerous curated exhibitions. In 2015, her work was exhibited in the Venice Biennale exhibition Glasstress Gotika at Palazzo Franchetti on the Grand Canal.

Please refer to the following online visual references for her work.



Instagram: @pennb

Penny Byrne is one of many talented artists that are showcasing their work on fuconomy.com. If you found this work inspiring and want to see more pandemic art, head to the pandemic artwork page, or try work from another artist, Anton Tintype. Or if you want to share your own work and have fuconomy showcase it, please complete the submission form. We are greatly appreciative of artists who wish to show their work on our site.