Penny Byrne is an Australian born artist. She was born in Mildura, Victoria, Australia. She lives in Melbourne and owns her own studio. She is interested in ceramics and works as a ceramics conservator. She did a bachelor of fine arts ceramics in Melbourne in 1987 and graduated from west Dean College in the UK after doing ceramics and glass conservation and restoration. She also did a bachelor of laws at La Trobe uni in Melbourne and uses her knowledge of political and social issues in her art.
Penny Byrne uses her knowledge of ceramics and knowledge of world issues combined with simplicity and in your face messages in her artwork ‘how much can a polar bear #2’ (2008, sculpture, ceramic, 9. 5x7x11cm). Her artwork makes a public comment on the melting polar ice caps due to global warming and the effect that this is having on the polar bears. Byrne uses her knowledge of ceramics in this sculpture as she appropriates this ready-made ceramic polar bear figure. She has taken a polar bear figure and put scuba diving gear on it to make it innocent and helpless.
She uses relevant choices of material as she isn’t creating more waste, putting across this environmentally friendly message. The message she is putting across is made obvious through her use of scuba diving gear and the title of the work. She wants people to think about the polar bears and the environment she cares so much about and she achieves this through simplicity and easy understanding. The overall meaning of this artwork is that the polar bears are struggling, to find food sources, to adapt to new climate and that we aren’t helping, in fact we are making it worse.
This is obviously a topic that Byrne feels strongly about. I find that she works well to channel her personal interests into the work and her uses of materials are appropriate to her knowledge, and the message she is putting across. Overall with the simplicity of the message and the use of appropriate materials are effective and work well with the knowledge and personal interest shown in her work. She uses this in many of her of her other works such as ‘the four horse men of the 21st century apocalypse’.