Always looking for a good excuse to go back to school, I found myself heading to Central Saint Martins in London’s Kings Cross not once but twice in the space of a few weeks. I’d been invited to look at the finalists for the Degree Shows, an annual design brouhaha which has tongues wagging, eyes popping and companies flocking to find the next big thing in fashion, art, architecture and science. The culmination of the shows is the king of design accolades, the MullenLowe Nova Awards, where the trophy for ingenuity and creativity gets dished out on the 4 July, together with some other exciting prizes.
Hot off the design press, the explosive young minds of Central Saint Martins showcase the latest and greatest in forward-thinking, provocative, smack-in-the-face concepts. It’s also refreshing to see students focus on sustainability, and not just because it’s fashionable but because it really, really matters to them.
There’s an inflatable balloon dress which is much more than hot air, pearlized condoms, a Wes Andersen and Yoko One architectural collaboration (fictitious and fabulous), sustainable sequins fashioned from cellulose, and much more. Put it this way, there’s nothing banal in this building.
What are the MullenLowe NOVA Awards?
Now in its ninth year, the MullenLowe NOVA Awards is an initiative run by the MullenLowe Group in partnership with Central Saint Martins. The college is one of the world’s leading art and design schools with a student roster that includes the likes of Antony Gormley, Terence Conran, Tom Hardy, Stella McCartney, Alexander McQueen, Laure Prouvost, Mathew Williamson and John Galliano.
14 students are shortlisted from 40 nominees across 1300 final year students working in fashion, fine art, design, photography, science and more. The nominated students participate in two shows: one in May, and the other in June. Twelve judges analyse the body of work with criteria that includes cutting-edge design, beautiful execution and work which pushes the creative boundaries to the absolute maximum.
The MullenLowe NOVA Award Winner receives £6000, the two runners-up get £2000, whilst the Unilever #Unstereotype receives £2000. There’s also a Creative Review Innovation Award.
YourNOVA Award – VOTE NOW!
This is where we all come in. The public can get involved in supporting these extraordinary young artists by voting in the YourNOVA Award, a prize which delivers £1000. You can vote now on the YourNova page, it only takes a few seconds. Voting closes on Tuesday July 2.
Show One Shortlisted Artists
Sara Gulamali (BA Fine Art 2D)
“The work follows a being, one who cannot be identified by race, religion, gender or sexuality – however they embody this bright green. A green screen. For an audience who is familiar with a Muslim background, one may see the likeness to women who wear burkas, alluding to the current political climate towards Muslims who are often treated as something to be feared and embody feelings of alienation.”
Jacob Bullen (MA Fine Art 2D)
“The title of my degree show piece is Moors Burning; archive. It consists of a painting, VHS tapes, a revolving reproduction of my own head (with removable gargoyle nose addition), sea water from the Dorset coast and a bag of earth dug from Saddleworth Moor. The work archives my obsession with Saddleworth Moor…I began recording and painting the Moors, because of identity crises regarding my sense of my own ‘northern-ness.”
Mita Vaghela (MA Fine Art)
“The Net has been made following a period of research into colonial and post-colonial theories, cultural studies and diaspora discourse interwoven with personal and shared anecdotal recollections. My practice centres on questioning my social heritage and the value of the female in Hindu culture. The repetitive process of making the net allowed me to reflect on my research to understand that as a British Indian woman; my identity is fluid, adaptable and built on a series of networks.”
Lara Orawski (MA Photography)
“My work reflects on the occupation of space as an extension of the body, how we externalise that which is internal and in turn how the external is consumed to shape the image of what we become. Interrogating experience, the ways that I have loved and lost, the ways in which I’ve allowed myself to be loved and lost to others and the grief I now wear on my body.”
Show Two Shortlisted Artists
Wen Ju Tseng (BA Jewellery Design)
“The aim of my work is to encourage a rethink on how individuals are valued, using humour, wit and an irreverent attitude to tackle some of these thorny issues by talking about them. By referencing familiar objects such as a credit card to a condom, I have elevated their status by highly crafting each piece of jewellery in precious materials to create a tension between our free selves and the bureaucratic dataset identities that govern us.”
Elissa Brunato (MA Material Futures)
“Working alongside material scientists from RISE Research Institutes, I created sequins that use wood’s ability to form structures that refract light. In this way, it is possible for this ‘future sequin’ to shimmer naturally without added chemicals. By extracting the crystalline form of cellulose, the wood-originating matter can imitate the alluring aesthetics of beetle wings. The material remains lightweight and as strong as plastic yet it is compostable.”
Cecily Cracroft-Eley (BA Fashion Knitwear)
“My graduate collection, ETAKA, is my projection of beauty among apocalyptic visions of a destroyed landscape… Considering my own place in the creative renewal of this catastrophe, my collection follows certain principles of wabi sabi, in that it is made primarily from recycled and natural materials. For my graduate collection, I worked with local craftswomen in Uganda and Rwanda who helped me create entirely handmade and hand embroidered garments.”
Fredrik Tjærandsen (BA Fashion Womenswear)
“Alternating between reality and dream, the garment is recognisably a bubble, but it is also a potential mask or uterus. I am deeply concerned with the relationship between what is seen and what is unknown, through the memories and misty impressions of childhood. This is a personal journey of documenting, researching and understanding how one communicates with the world through memory. The bubble contains circa 3,500 litres of air, which means the wearer can be inside for several hours.”
Xiaoying Liang (MA Graphic Communication Design)
“My work is a set of moving images of words from the alphabet. Each of the moving images is an experiment in destabilising, stretching, and interrogating the boundaries of day-to-day objects created by their Oxford English Dictionary definitions, in order to deal with the ambiguity and complexity in words that are either relatively static or ‘clear’.”
Minh Le (BA Architecture)
“LGBT, a spatial concept and design aimed to house experimental, radical and socially-empowering art practices, has been developed as an imaginary collaboration between two ground-breaking artists – Wes Anderson and Yoko Ono. Anderson’s unmistakable aesthetic and Ono’s unique upbringing served as an inspiration for the aesthetic of the project which strives to bring back the almost forgotten historic theatrical character of Brixton. The final outcome serves two functions: refreshing the theatre scene of the area and cleaning up the area’s plastic pollution as well as the Effra River, Brixton’s once bloodline.”
Haemin Ko (MA Character Animation)
“No Body is an autobiographical poetic short animation film. It focuses on our loneliness and (dis)connections. It is an experimental charcoal animated story exploring my relationship with the city through three emotional chapters of excitement, frustration and hope. What does it mean to belong, to be part of a whole?”
Nicola Jane Francis (MA Character Animation)
“This film is based on my own experience of my father passing away unexpectedly in December 2018. My intention with this film was to use symbolism and metaphor to create a releatable narrative onto which each audience member can project their own personal experience of loss. The project was created using digital 2D frame-by-frame animation techniques to help preserve an illustrative, handmade quality to the film. ”
Diane Dwyer (MA Narrative Environments)
“Abandoned Grace is an installation set in a disused grace-and-favour residence at Hampton Court Palace. It tells the story of the abandonment of women’s perspectives in history within their abandoned living space. Upon entering the apartment, visitors encounter cloth-draped representations of each former resident, from 1766 to 1992. These cloths contain the residents’ patriarchal biography. Visitors are encouraged to remove these sheets and reveal messages from each resident. Abandoned Grace aims to inspire visitors to consider the inequality of representation in our historical record, how this continues to impact society today, and how they themselves would want to be remembered.”
Mael Henaff (MA Material Futures)
“In the next 15 years, it is estimated that at least 40% of jobs will be replaced by machines. Nowhere is this future more apparent than in Jaywick in the UK where 60% of the population have already either lost their jobs or are out of work, mostly because of the insurgence of automation and machine learning . Through this project, I collaborated with Jaywick’s local community to create a practical workshop where local people could build fully-functioning crypto-miners to allow them a real means of generating a secondary, supplementary income.”
This is a sponsored post, but all opinions are my own.
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