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Thursday, 17 November 2022 02:28

Launch of thirteenth MacKillop Art Exhibition

“Look up! We’re in the world’s most beautiful art gallery, it’s the cathedral gallery,” Philomena Billington, once said to a Prep student at the MacKillop Art Awards. Listening to the words of the former Director of Catholic Education, attendees at the 2022 Awards raised their heads in awe, their faces bathed in the soft amber glow of Sacred Heart Cathedral, surrounded by the inspirational artworks of Sandhurst’s young people and the sweet voices of the Marist College Bendigo Choir – it was a spirit-filled occasion in which both hearts and minds were warmed. 

Described by Fr Brian Boyle EV as an event “where faith, culture and art come together,” the thirteenth annual MacKillop Art Exhibition was launched on Friday 11 November. Sr Rita Malavasi RSJ, who opened the exhibition on behalf of the Sisters of St Joseph, quoted fellow Josephite, Sr Geraldine Larkins RSJ, saying “Art is a perfect partner for spirituality … art is the medium for the exploration of meaning, an invitation into mystery and transformation.” 

Addressing the audience at the launch, and representing fellow adjudicators, Geraldine Stills and Darren Crothers, Dr Adam Staples said he had a magnificent time looking through the exhibition. Stating that he preferred to think of his difficult task as selecting prize winners rather than judging the works.  Dr Staples said students and teachers had met the challenge set out for them by adjudicators at the 2021 MacKillop Exhibition launch, to start thinking of their art practice as art-thinking and art making. Dr Staples explained: 

… it’s not just about doing the drawings; it’s thinking about why you’re doing it ─ what is the purpose? What is the message?  And when you start thinking about the purpose and the message, the supposed brilliance of the artwork ─ so, how good you may think you are at drawing or not ─ becomes sort of secondary. And that’s really important. The message, the process, the journey to get there, is what it’s all about."

Dr Staples encouraged attendees to take their time to appreciate the works on display and to read the artists’ statements, which he said are often just as interesting as the artworks.

The idea of art practice as art-thinking and art making, and its link to faith was obvious when Spiritual Art (Year 7-10) Awardees explained the creative thinking behind their works.   

Winner Freedom of the Captives Charlene Chau Yr 10 Catherine McAuley College

Charlene Chau, a year ten student from Catherine McAuley College, described her thinking process when she created her winning work, ‘Freedom from the Captives’:  

“I got my inspiration from Isaiah, who once said that he was sent to proclaim freedom … and release prisoners from the darkness … So, in my print I drew a bird flying out from a cage, fighting for its own freedom, and flying into the bright new world, to start a new beginning.” 

Winner Highly Commended Light from the Darkness Lennie Johnston Yr 10 Catherine McAuley College

Lennie Johnston, fellow year ten student from Catherine McAuley College explained the thinking behind her highly commended work, 'Light from the Darkness'':

“I got my inspiration when I was looking through a magazine and it was about gardening … it reminded me of ducks and how ducks are very protective of their young, and that they are always there for their young, which is like a parent and a child, which links in with the [scripture] quote “to comfort all who mourn.” This is from the passage I was looking at.  I chose a Lino print technique because I wanted to really show that the parent, which is the duck in my painting, is always there for her young and she is comforting at a time of need, while the ducklings are in the dark.”

Dr Staples posed a challenge for students and teachers in 2023, “to continue with this notion of art-thinking and art making, but to wrap art-thinking and artmaking into a collaborative art practice.  We’re beginning to see some of that emerge now; and when you go through this exhibition, you’ll see some great collaborative artworks,” he said.  

Dr Staples said in the future, the Spiritual Art Awards could also be an opportunity for students to come together and work inpidually, but also as a whole, to consider how their art-thinking and their art-making is able to put forward a message that is collaborative in nature, rather than purely inpidual in nature. 

This year, the Bishop’s Choice Awards were introduced to the MacKillop Art Awards to highlight the value of the arts in the life of the Church. Bishop Shane Mackinlay personally chose a work from a primary school student and a work from a secondary school student to acknowledge the importance of elevating, affirming and supporting students in his Diocese with their creative endeavours.

Bishop Shane was unable to attend the launch, so Fr Brian Boyle presented the awards on Bishop Shane's behalf.  

Welcome HarrisonWilliamsStJosephsChilternYr5

Bishop Shane’s top pick of the primary school artworks was ‘Welcome’ by Harrison Williams of St Joseph’s Primary School in Chiltern.  Bishop Shane explained his choice:

“We have all been deeply moved by the suffering of the Ukrainian people since their country was invaded. This work of art thoughtfully reflects on the practical needs of the Ukrainian people, and the way we can share Jesus’ good news by welcoming them.”

MacKillop Awards Shaye 350

For the secondary school category, Bishop Shane chose ‘The World in Our Hands’, by Catherine McAuley College student, Shaye Couch.  “Pope Francis has been a powerful voice calling us to recognise that we are deeply connected to all parts of creation, and to commit ourselves to concrete actions that help this integral ecology to flourish. This work of art beautifully illustrates our connection to nature and our responsibility to care for it, responding to the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor,” wrote Bishop Shane.

The Philomena Billington Social Justice Through the Arts Scholarship 2022-2023 was presented by Philomena Billington to St Mary’s Primary School in Mooroopna for their project ‘Dreaming Garden’. 

“They’ve brought together dreaming, reconciliation, and relationships with indigenous people in their community, with Laudato Si’ integral ecology ─ we are all connected,” said Ms Billington 

“We can think with our dreaming and with our hearts, and about how we move through to express the inexpressible. There are times when we just can’t express what matters, but we can, through our giftedness.   The recipients are responding to who we are called to be as a people.”

Ms Catherine Dyke, who received the award on behalf of St Mary’s said the school has just under 300 students, 47 of whom are indigenous.  “We encourage our students to stand strong, be proud of who they are and proclaim their culture and traditions.  The Dreaming Garden will marry the Christian Genesis story with Dreamtime stories and encourage families to participate in planting and to create a learning space through storytelling,” she said. 

There are 250 artworks on display at Sacred Heart Cathedral Bendigo.  The works are also available for viewing online and you can vote for the People’s Choice Award. Voting closes on 27 November, 2022. 

For more information about the MacKillop Art Exhibition, to view the works, see the list of winners, and vote for the People’s Choice, please go to the MacKillop Art Exhibition website

Click here to watch the launch