Student Art Prize 2019/20 DIVERSITY

In October 2019, Durham University launched its very first Student Art Prize.  

Over 75 artists submitted to the art prize, under the theme of DIVERSITY. 21 were shortlisted by a panel based on their conceptualisation of the brief and are displayed in this online exhibition.  

The second Student Art Prize 2020/21 will be launched on November 9th 2020. You can find more information on the Durham University Art Collection website.

The first Durham University Student Art Prize!

Although Durham does not formally teach fine art, almost every university college has its own active art society or art group, where students take part in workshops, meet artists and develop their artistic skills through collaborative creativity.

The Student Art Prize was launched in October 2019 to expand opportunities around creativity and to develop a new permanent student art collection, housed within the university’s wider art collection, but available as a resource for the whole community.

“We must have many talented student artists here in Durham,” he says. “It is time their talent and contribution to the life of the University was encouraged and recognised.” 

(Quoted from

The theme chosen for this first iterance was ‘diversity’, a subject chosen to allow a wide range of exploration and conceptualisation by the artists, and a reference to the lack of diversity within some traditional canons of art history. Over seventy artists submitted to the art prize, of those twenty-one were shortlisted by a panel based on their conceptualisation of the brief. 

In light of the 2020 lockdown, the once-planned physical exhibition of these artworks now takes a digital format. Each artwork is displayed here alongside the artists own words.

Prize-winners announcement!
Our prize-winners were announced at an online event on 14th July 2020. In addition to first, second and third places, the judging panel choose to award two highly commended prizes and a Popular Vote on the evening. Congratulations to all of our artists.

1st place prize: Hands of acceptance by Alice Stubbings
2nd place prize: Ascension by James Bailey
3rd place prize: Wisdom of Age by Anna Horwich

Highly commended: Kaleidoscope by Zihan Zhou and Papa Gus by Lizzie English
Popular vote: Papa Gus by Lizzie English

Holy Fire by Abraham Falcon
Digital interactive game

“This piece is a digital pixel-art interactive story which represents the self-immolation​ protests by Tibetans in China which have been occurring since 2009. 148 people have​ been confirmed to have died as a result.​

This piece was created because I believe everyone should know that this is still​ happening. I depicted both sides of the conflict in order to allow the audience to​ consider both sides and remain objective.​

By interacting with the piece through a keyboard, individual audience members will step into the shoes of a local monk, and personally make emotional and meaningful choices from a first-person perspective.​”

Touched by the hands of change  by Cydonie Ashbridge
Biro and pencil on paper

“My piece depicts the interwovenness of the Durham community. The emotive hands, drawn in greyscale, are not indicative of age, gender, sexual orientation or background. The backdrop of Durham’s intricate cityscape sinews behind the hands like veins, symbolising the way Durham is within us, and is precisely what unites us all, irrespective of race, class or creed. The power of such connections is profound, and can have real and influential long-lasting impacts.”

Ascension by James Bailey

“This composition aims to enhance the haze of the street party that is Holi and visually transform it from a small celebration in Durham to a wider event that many people embrace. I used the multiple exposure function to fill the frame and make the composition much busier and I think the leading lines created by the man moving towards the centre of the photo really draws one in, towards the light. I called this Ascension because it feels to me like the man in the photo is leading me out of the haze and into the light.”

Chloe by Elly Brimacombe
Charcoal and soft pastel on paper

“In portraiture, a significant and at times exaggerated focus is placed on the “beautiful” individuals of society however this regard needs to be shifted and diversified. Our perspective needs to change; looking at this portrait, one should not react with sympathy but see a powerful, young, independent woman in her own right. This is Chloë; a wonderful and engaging individual with Down’s Syndrome whom I have the privilege of knowing. I hope to encourage the viewer to question our preconceived assumptions of beauty and art, and stress not only the importance of diversification but also of freedom and empowerment.”

Abstract Bodies by Alra David
Ink on paper

Abstract Bodies fits into the theme of DIVERSITY because it is a representation of the diverse perception of the body. Standard forms of bodies are so entrenched in our culture and society. Through Arts, the homogenised interpretation of the body can be challenged through its diverse representation. The artwork elucidates the ability of the mind to undergo instantaneous and diverse representational processes of the body.” 

Papa Gus by Lizzie English
Acrylic on stretched canvas

“Augustine, a self-proclaimed “big, black, adopted, gay, Christian, American mature student,” epitomises my experience of diversity during my time as a student in Durham. 

Despite a challenging upbringing, he radiates positivity across Cranmer Hall, St. John’s College, and the wider university and community, bringing joy to so many people. I tried to capture this in my colourful painting. Augustine is proof that diversity in Durham should be embraced, encouraged and enjoyed.” 

Life in Isolation by Georgina Feltham-White
Pencil, graphite, marker, watercolour, collage 

“The painting depicts a close friend of mine who suffered racial abuse at his university; he struggled afterwards as he didn’t feel there was anyone he could talk to/ask for help. Racism in a setting such as university is especially tough – it is your first time away from home, in a completely new environment and it can therefore be isolating. 

All the collage used comes from handbooks and flyers given out in fresher’s week further emphasising the common link between university and racial abuse.”

The Little Book of Biodiversity by Dorry Fox
Pen and pencil on paper

“This piece celebrates biodiversity while also lamenting its demise at the hands of humanity. 

It commemorates species across a wide geographical and biological scope. I didn’t want to reiterate the popular ‘poster’ animals of climate activism, such as polar bears and sea turtles; I hope to show love for these species, including those that typically induce antipathy (eels and spiders). The recurring forget-me-not is a symbol of remembrance for diverse life-forms, and hope for their continued survival. 

On top of that, the book is multimedia, integrating illustration and rhyming couplets, and was created using various materials.”

Walled In/Out by Ouissal Harize
Acrylics and oil pastels on Canvas

“The portrait Walled In/Out is about those of us who are now strangers to all lands. The man in the portrait has a sad gaze to symbolize his exhausted soul. The painting was finalized after Brexit as a response to this growing culture of building walls instead of bridges. Whereas “walled out” stands for this injustice of xenophobia, “walled in” is the subsequent result of recoiling to our safe zone to escape prejudice. 

We are now often using diversity as a colouring gloss to cover the deep hidden injustice of racism, intolerance and
xenophobia. It is therefore important to redefine diversity as the acknowledgment of pain as well as beauty.” 

Wisdom of Age by Anna Horwich
Oil and gouache on canvas.

“In our current consumerist society, some are forgotten, sometimes including the ones who are most knowledgeable and experienced. Magazines and social media predominantly only feature the younger generation, possibly just for an aesthetic. The older generation have wisdom to offer. The older generation have stories to tell. 

Jill, is an inspiration to me and to others. She has lived and travelled across the world meeting people, including the Queen. She is remarkable woman who shows nothing but pure kindness, something this world needs more of. The world needs to recognise more people like Jill.” 

Kinyesi by Laura Hutchinson
Watercolour on paper

“To humans, elephants all look the same. Ostensibly, there is little that is ‘diverse’ between individuals. But observing them intimately, it becomes clear that each animal is entirely unique. 

Elephants are violently hunted and culled to protect their shrinking plain which struggle to accommodate them – yet man can spread without this containment. Diversity isn’t just colour, creed or type. It’s conservation and consideration. Is diversity considered in a race between man and animal for resources? This trio looks like a copy/paste of the same beast, honing in to the point that diversity isn’t purely surface deep – it comes from within.”

A Thread Through Time by Celia Louise Justin
Woven wool, paper, plastic and string

“This artwork explores the diverse ways in which a piece of fabric can be made. The wool especially the ‘school grey’ coloured section represents the traditional, whilst the use of new materials such as bright recycled plastics reflect the way in which fabrics and environmental perspectives on fashion are changing, and cross culturally in places where they rely on repurposing materials to create textiles.

Furthermore, the juxtaposition of textures (rough string, paper and plastic next to soft wools), smells (scented bin liners and regular wool), and sounds (the crinkle of the plastics) creates a vivid exploration of everyday diversity.” 

We Oppose by Jasmine Kaler
Print on paper

“The protests in opposition to the CAA (Citizens Amendment Act) and NRC (National Register of Citzins) – which discriminate against Muslims and erode Indian secularism – are occurring on a scale that has not been seen since the Independence struggle.

A common chant is ‘We are not Hindus, Christians or Muslims. We are Indians.’ and this message of embracing diversity is mirrored in the line of a famous Indian poem by Muhammad Iqbal – ‘Religion does not teach us to bear animosity among ourselves’. 

I included the original Urdu instead of a translation (my Pakistani friend helped with typography) to follow Rukh’s style and to highlight India’s diverse cultural heritage.” 

Embrace by Alice Lefranq-Frodj
Cross-stitch embroidery (textile)

“Made for a pivotal general election in Sweden 
on September 9th 2018, the piece comments on the necessity of peaceful integration of Muslim immigrants and asylum seekers into Swedish society. After the refugee crisis in Europe, the rise of populism and right-wing nationalism led to increased support for the Sweden Democrats, creating cultural barriers in the population. 

As the child of a Swedish father and a Muslim Moroccan  mother, I made this piece to encourage a conflict-free integration process, to protest against nationalist policies of SD and to promote the celebration of cultural diversity on the premise of equality.” 

The Arabic text is a quote from Ali ibn abi Talib, a prominent figure in Islam, which translates to “People are of two types, they are either your brothers in faith or your equals in humanity”.

Cerrado by Amy Lou
Ink on paper

While being one of the most important biodiversity hotspot in the world, Cerrado is also one of the most threatened due to human activity. Therefore, my artwork aims to raise awareness for the issue of loss of biodiversity by appreciating the beauty of Cerrado. 

The kaleidoscope-inspired arrangement is designed to represent the ever-expanding, all-encompassing nature of the biome. The kaleidoscope motif also creates a sense of order and coherence: diversity doesn’t lead to chaos, instead, it offers belonging and acceptance. Diversity as an entity itself is intricately beautiful, a beauty worth preserving.” 

Diversity and Invisibility 
by Chiara Maurino and Alyona Fedulova
Mixed media, oil painting and ink

“Over the next two slides, this multimedia project celebrates the variety of stories, emotions and experiences that one single person is made up of. Our aim was to pay tribute to the diversity that is less visible, to the different, more raw sides of people that you don’t usually see. We threaded intimate narratives disclosing personal experiences into the portraits to demonstrate that everybody has inner fragilities no matter how confident they might seem. By focussing on how diverse each person is but unifying the portraits into a whole collection we hope to inspire viewers with the message that even in our most individual experiences of pain, we are not alone.” 

Untitled by Katherine McEllin
Ink on paper

“The word diversity made me think about biodiversity. I thought that I could use biodiversity as a metaphor for human diversity, in the sense that society needs all different types of people to thrive, and is richer and more beautiful because of this. So I drew people with the heads of creatures, and in bright colours, since a rainbow of colours is strongly linked to diversity.” 

A Timeless Gaze by Drish Patel
Pencil on paper

“The woman in the artwork represents the older but forgotten generation, a key marginalisedgroup in today’s society. This artwork aims to celebrate the diversity of older people, and to support individuals to overcome the barriers to their full participation in society, regardless of their age. 

Diversity in this picture is about positively valuing and harnessing differences stemming from various age groups. It aspires to raise awareness of the inequalities and exclusion experienced by many older people, and encourage equality and inclusion of older people from diverse backgrounds.This starts from understanding their different needs, choices, cultures and values.”


Hands of acceptance by Alice Stubbings
Ink and coloured pencil on paper

“The intention is to represent the definition of diversity and it’s place within society. The use of colour symbolises people from all social groups and backgrounds. The interaction of the hands represents unity, the idea of acceptance of diversity and that it strengthens society. 

The quotes on the hands depict that the acceptance of diversity in society has not been straightforward; it is the product of much bravery. The quotes are a commendation, and highlight that their calls for inclusivity over oppression shall be remembered, and society (like the coloured pencil over the quotes) has been “built” from this.” 


Seen by Eden Szymura
Glass and card (mirror)

Seen explores the importance of visibility in creating empowered and diverse communities. In reflecting those that walk past, the artwork captures the underrepresentation of diversity at this institution. Just like the viewer’s image in the mirror, Durham’s lack of integration and inclusion means that its perception of the world is distorted and opaque. In dictating how the individual sees their reflection, the piece comments on the ways in which power structures deny marginalised communities access to equal opportunities. Ultimately, through the intimate act of looking, ‘Seen’ invites viewers to confront their own privilege and how it shapes their identity.” 


Kaleidoscope by Zihan Zhou
Digital print on paper

Diversity is originated in the Age of Discovery, indicated by the waves in The Great Wave of Kanagawa. The man washing books of different culture implies the blending of cultures today. The virtual, electronic way of us inspecting this diverse world, is represented by the mobile phone filled with Apps and, the blending of virtuality and reality in Version After The Sermon. The Penrose-stair and people on it describes the continuous update of our recognition with the evolution of diversity: collision, coordination and cooperation, and for every one, it is more like inspecting the diverse world with a kaleidoscope.”


Over seventy artists submitted to the art prize, and shown on Durham University’s Art Collection website as part of the 2019/20 art prize archive. 

A selection of Student Art Prize artworks were for sale in Thought Foundation’s Affordable Art Exhibition, also part of Summer in the City’s ONLINE festival 2020.

Disclaimer: All artworks and words displayed as part of the Student Art Prize online exhibition are the unique works and opinions of the individual artist and not the views of the wider University.

N.B Due to unforeseen circumstances Robert Mitchell has withdrawn his artwork Nomuhle  from the Student Art Prize.