Student Q&Arts: Delphine Byrne

Kaylah Joelle Baker

Get to know a student’s experience studying at The University of Melbourne’s Faculty of Fine Arts and Music. Delphine Byrne is studying a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Visual Art) at the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA) …

What motivated you to choose your degree?

I’ve wanted to pursue art since I was a child. I always loved drawing and making. I took painting classes run by VCA short courses on Saturdays where one teacher encouraged me to apply for the undergrad – so I did. The rest is history.

Describe a typical day of study …

I drop my daughter off at kindergarten, arrive at my studio and check my calendar. I work out how much studio time I’ll have – making a list of everything I need to do and what can be achieved within that time. Depending on the project, and where I am in the process, I’ll spend my day researching, experimenting, planning, sourcing material or producing work.

What has been your favourite experience?

I participated in an artist exchange with Geidai University in Tokyo. I collaborated with a student from Geidai to co-create a work for an exhibition in Melbourne and Tokyo. It was really cool to see different iterations of my work exhibited across two countries simultaneously.

What inspires you?

Becoming a mother has been a huge inspiration, both conceptually and in time management. I’m inspired by forgotten historical events, contemporary female oppressions and injustices, gendered violence, clichéd perceptions of motherhood, and drawing connections. I also draw inspiration from ancient witchcraft practices, which I use as a lens to engage with contemporary feminist issues.

What advice would you give to someone considering your degree?

You won’t just make art in the degree. You’ll also learn about art in context to First Nations knowledge, colonisation, de-colonisation, mathematics, ecology, film, music, feminism, animation, world history, psychology, spirituality, dance, performance, and more.

What are your goals for the coming years?

I want to make a living from my art practice and continue juggling parenting and art making. I plan to keep up my practice, writing proposals, applications and hopefully exhibiting consistently in galleries. I’d also love to continue my studies in Honours at VCA.

Tell us more about your new work as part of the Majlis Exhibition at the Fiona and Sidney Myer Gallery in August …

The work is called Find Juanita: Sigil Score, inspired by the disappearance of Juanita Nielsen in 1975. The work comprises of a graphic score etched into a piece of clear perspex. I’ve incorporated a sigil – a symbol I created – to cast a spell to find Juanita. I perform the score in a ritual where I channel the energy of her disappearance using Reiki. Then I perform the score with an amplified violin and theremin, which creates sound in response to my movements. The score itself is an extension of a previous work, and my ongoing enquiry into Juanita’s death. •

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