This digital exhibition showcases the shortlisted entries to Durham University's fourth annual Student Art Prize.
Each year, the prize focuses on a different theme to allow a wide range of exploration and conceptualisation. The theme for 22/23 is Sanctuary.
This year, as with each previous year, the judges have been particularly taken with how students have responded, often portraying imagery that is extremely personal, representing their own struggles, mental health or identity.
We give thanks to the generous support of our alumni donors, particularly our founding sponsor Richard Roberts, who has confirmed his support in delivering the Student Art Prize for many years to come.
This online exhibition takes you through 5 sections exploring the theme of Sanctuary: Located, Embodied, Comfort, Escape, Confinement. They are posed as both a statement and a question to reflect the different ways the artists have unpicked the meaning of this year's theme.
The final prize-winners were announced on 7 June 2023.
Content Warning: Some of the artworks on display in this exhibition contain language and imagery that some may find challenging. This is an exhibition of Durham University student artwork. Each student has responded to the Student Art Prize theme and and created artworks and narratives they feel important and want to communicate. All artworks and captions are the creation of each individual student artist and represent their own voices and opinions. They do not represent the views of the wider University. The images, artworks, films and materials are the property of the artist and are subject to copyright.
These pieces span from the global to the local, from the need to preserve community spaces to the need to protect our planet. Some destabilize places that are familiar through fantasy or reframing, others demonstrate the closeness and safety in the unfamiliar.
They find refuge in unlikely locations while highlighting the fragility of these spaces.
These pieces reflect on how sanctuary can be found in the body and/or in the brain. They reflect on theories of consciousness, on the shared desires and biological makeup of humanity, and struggles with mental health. They reflect on how sanctuary can include finding peace and safety within yourself.
These pieces are like a warm hug. Immersive and enveloping, they summon up snapshots or memories. They conjure feelings that are tactile, engaging the senses (even smell, in one case) and cross generations, evoking the past. Often nostalgic, they reach out for connection with others – friends, family, strangers – to give and receive comfort, and offer up their own personal experiences to find solidarity with others.
These pieces question the nature of sanctuary. They explore how what is intended as a hideaway from the world can instead become an enclosure or confinement. Some focus on how cutting yourself off from the world can be more of a trap than a safe space, or on how sanctuary for some may mean harm for others. Others focus on the destruction of sanctuary, questioning the possibility of its existence. Different approaches, from the ecological to the surrealist, demonstrate how the category of ‘sanctuary’ can serve to overwrite narratives and limit agency.
These pieces deal with finding sanctuaries, no matter how tenuous, in difficult circumstances. Some value the small sanctuaries found in daily life or at home amidst a turbulent world. Others grapple with whether it is truly possible to find sanctuary amidst the brutality of war and enslavement. Regardless, a fierce hope runs throughout these pieces.