Sibley’s practice for the last two years has focused on the socio-political themes of global migration, dispossession and trans-nationalism. The works he has produced are predominantly large-scale charcoal drawings with an investigation into the post-photographic condition and the development of what can be called the hyperimage. This can be described as the way an image derived from a photographic source, can transcend established definitions of photography by becoming the re-presentation of a subject rather than simply a representation.
Benedict Sibley is an Australian born visual artist. After his Fine Arts training at RMIT University Melbourne, in the early 1990s, Sibley spent two decades designing and making furniture and architectural joinery. During this period of activity, the focus of his work was utility, fine craftsmanship and design with a focus on bespoke commissions as opposed to production run items. Sibley’s repertoire has extended from veneered museum quality cabinets and restaurant design installs to major architectural work including studios, residencies, and a large pavilion at the University of Melbourne, Parkville. Sibley’s furniture is represented in institutions and private collections throughout Australia and overseas.
In 2015, circumstances in Sibley’s life led to a complete change in the direction of his creative output. A combination of personal loss, an alertness to urgent and escalating global issues, and a re-engagement with the visual medium after travelling to Europe and New York, awakened in him a new-found urgency for making art again. Sibley identifies that the prevailing zeitgeist calls for collective response to repair a world spiralling out of control - nothing short of a universal shift in societal awareness and dramatic behavioural change will prevent the collapse of our existing natural and cultural systems. By being an active participant in the development of contemporary discourse and imagery, Sibley intends to make positive contributions towards imagining and navigating a future existence where diversity in all its forms is supported.
“The politicization of art mostly happens as a reaction against the aestheticization of politics practiced by political power. That was the case in the 1930s and it is the case now.”
Boris Groys, Towards a New Universalism, 2017
My recent drawings investigate modes of migration. Initially hinging from the experiences of my refugee mother and migrant father post World War II, these works explore the last 70 years of people movement by sea, including the current international refugee crisis.
The encroachment of the New Right’s anti-immigration policies challenges the contemporary worldview; the established ethical principles of our modern society. Like history repeating itself, questions are again being raised about who should be welcomed to a country like ours, and who should not. Current nationalistic and isolationist rhetoric asserts that we should be highly selective when granting citizenship. The significance of this populist pressure is that it asks us to turn our backs on those seeking asylum; individuals or communities often escaping desperate circumstances including persecution, war and famine. This closing-of-borders position is in stark contrast to the more open policy exhibited to previous generations of migrants, and represents a dramatic shift in global sentiment. It could indeed be argued that this moral regression is part of a general decline in the fulfilment of international responsibilities by first world nations like the US, Italy, Hungary and Australia amongst others.
Why is it so contentious for a country as wealthy as our own to direct the appropriate compassion, resources and energy towards meeting the humanitarian needs of others, let alone address our environmental obligations? How did we allow a culture of fear and doubt to hijack intelligent discourse and prohibit our ability to help and engage with others? How do we re-set our moral compass so we can recover the idea of a nation, a world, that welcomes the richness and well-being that cultural diversity brings, to foster the possibility of a sustainable transnational future?