Sink like a stone. Painting by Dr Libby Byrne. Used with permission.

Sink like a stone

Dr Libby Byrne is an alumna of the University of Divinity (through Whitley College), having graduated with a Doctor of Philosophy in 2016, and a current Honorary Research Associate of the University. In 2019, Libby was the recipient of a University of Divinity research grant. This article and images are shared on Vox with permission. Find out more about Libby’s art and research on her website

Last year I was privileged to work with the Centre for Music, Litury and the Arts to explore the idea of painting my contribution to a conversation about the lived experience of incarnational worship. Over three days I painted a large-scale artwork as I journeyed in conversation with three other invited speakers and a gathered community in St Andrew’s by the Sea, Glenelg.

The decision to take up the invitation to paint in this way in the midst of a faith community was a commitment to maintaining a particular form of embodied attention whilst listening, looking and checking in with my felt sense of the experience. Having been offered the time, space and resources I needed to privilege art making as a form of attention and holding space throughout three days of conversation, I was aware of the need to care about what the many different people who gathered we each were thinking, feeling, saying and seeing which required me to be both working deeply and aware of the dynamic environment on the surface at different times. Appreciating what I am doing and experiencing as it happens requires reflexive capacity that engages my cognition with layers of embodied and imaginative knowing.

In the weeks and months since that time I have returned to my studio and with the support of a research grant from the University of Divinity I have been painting through the layers of understanding that are still resonating for me. In doing so I have also managed to find ways to continue the conversation with my fellow presenter Malcolm Gordon. Malcolm has been writing and recording music in his studio in New Zealand as I have been painting a body of work that explores an idea we encountered in his words and my images, now embedded in many layers of our conversation. In this strange time of isolation, both together and apart, we have been considering what it might be like to sink like a stone and find a place to rest, in deep, dark peace.

I am planning an exhibition of this emerging body of work when the social restrictions of 2020 are eased, but for now, we invite you to click on the following link and spend a few moments with this collaborative work.  David Whyte says of a conversation that “…when one person has said the truth, both people are emancipated into the next stage of the relationship…And you’re both actually in this new place.” If this work evokes images, thoughts and ideas that you would like to share with us – we would love to hear from you as your responses will surely take us all into a new place.


  • There is so much in our world about flying free , or a sense of can do . The images invoked a feeling of truth of ageing . As life diminishes and even as our freedoms are clipped in these covid times , to retreat to the deep is a place more than escape but a difficult journey fraught with many twists and turns and then finally maybe rest as the stone hits rock bottom . Thank you always for your work Jenni G

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