Australian Catholic University (ACU) staff and students have gathered at the university’s Melbourne campus for the opening and blessing of a new art installation.

Titled Keeping the Faith, this installation is the first of several that will be installed on the Daniel Mannix building rooftop and is an initiative of Campus Dean Krista Maglen.

The present artwork consists of a series of photo collages by Ivanka Sugumar, a third-year visual arts student and young woman of faith whose work seeks to communicate traditional religious texts through contemporary digital media.

Ivanka is thrilled that her work is the first to be chosen to enliven the rooftop space. She says she has always been interested in the visual arts, ‘making a mess around the house’ from a young age. Growing up in the Anglican Church, it was the experience of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns that pushed her to embrace her faith on a deeper level.

She says that in 2020 she ‘developed some anxiety, and that really pushed me to take my faith more seriously. I think that’s what brought me to be able to introduce faith into my work.’

The three pieces that make up the installation all use texts from the Bible and photographs taken by Ivanka herself, recontextualised and given fresh meaning. One of them, which focuses on the story of Queen Esther from the Old Testament, is an especially meaningful one to Ivanka, who found inspiration in that story.

The images are evocative of the themes of love, joy, hope and victory, she says. ‘Especially after the few years that we’ve had, and whatever else happens in the future, if people can feel any kind of love or hope or comfort through this, then I can say I’ve done something successful.’

At the opening of the installation, Campus Dean Krista Maglen shared her hopes that by highlighting a student’s talent and creativity in this way, other students will be encouraged to create their own ‘mission-inspired’ works of art.

Fr Michael Buck, chaplain for the ACU Melbourne campus, says that he is proud of this installation and of Ivanka for her work.

‘This mission-inspired art installation brings together the celebration of student talent as well as the mission and identity of ACU,’ he says. ‘Ivanka’s artwork shows a mature capacity to reflect on how mission at ACU connects with her personally, and her portrayal of scriptural stories through the modern artistic form of photo collage is a way of expressing the enduring relevance of the Scriptures to our lives and world today.’

‘I think when students and staff see this artwork, they will be moved to think and reflect on the scriptural stories that Ivanka has depicted and the importance of courage, mercy, love and peace. I’m looking forward to the opportunities to celebrate ACU student art inspired by the university’s mission in the future.’

Banner image: photo courtesy of Joshua Hook.