MullenLowe Nova Awards picks top talent at Central Saint Martins

The awards highlight the work of four BA and MA art and design graduates from Central Saint Martins in London, and include work created using the DNA of Alexander McQueen, microbiology, as well as jewellery made from Oyster Cards and – phew – good old-fashioned ceramics.

Now in its sixth year, the MullenLowe Nova Awards celebrates creative talent at Central Saint Martins each year. Judged by creatives from across the MullenLowe advertising network (plus a journalist and representative from Unilever, which backs the awards), this year saw four grads picked from over 1,300 pieces of work on show at the CSM BA and MA grad shows.

The overall winner was Sarah Craske, a graduate from the MA Art and Science course, whose work centres around using microbiology to draw out bacteria on objects. If that doesn’t sound too icky, read on…

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Above: Biological Hermetics by Sarah Craske, winner of this year's MullenLowe Nova Awards
Above: Biological Hermetics by Sarah Craske, winner of this year’s MullenLowe Nova Awards

Craske aims to directly explore the value of the physical archive in the digital age in her work. To do this, she used a 1735 edition of Ovid’s Metamorphosis and incubated the bacteria within it. Interestingly, she discovered that biological colonies developed far more readily on the pages of Latin text as opposed to English; suggesting a greater level of touch from readers when they faced language difficulties.

“Knowledge itself is continually being redefined and accessed more immediately while acquisition and storage of knowledge is moving from the real to the virtual world,” says Craske of her work. “The expansion of digital material prompts the question: what will be our eventual relationship with the physical archive? Will it hold any value?”

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Above: Pure Human by Tina Gorjanc, a runner up in the Nova Awards
Above: Pure Human by Tina Gorjanc, a runner up in the MullenLowe Nova Awards

Three runners up were also chosen by the judges. Tina Gorjanc, a graduate from the MA Material Futures course, presented Pure Human, a project that explores how advances in human tissue technology might redefine our concept of luxury. Gorjanc used the DNA of designer Alexander McQueen, taken from a hair featured in his earliest collections, to develop a selection of leatherwear directly modelled on the designer’s skin.

Her work aims to question the ethics of working with human DNA. “The primary goal of Pure Human is to address shortcomings concerning the protection of biological information, and move the debate forward using current legal structures,” she says.

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Contemporary Jewellery, But Everyone Just Calls Me CJ by Lucie Davis, a runner up in the MullenLowe Nova Awards
Contemporary Jewellery, But Everyone Just Calls Me CJ by Lucie Davis, a runner up in the MullenLowe Nova Awards

Runner up Lucie Davis, a grad on the BA Jewellery Design course, creates jewellery and beauty products from everyday objects such as Oyster Cards or washing up sponges. She describes the intentions of her work as “getting people to think differently – to both see anew and reflect on how much remains yet to be seen”. Davis received the Your Nova (People’s Choice) award, which was voted for online by the public.

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Ceramic City by Maria Gasparian, a runner up in the MullenLowe Nova Awards
Ceramic City by Maria Gasparian, a runner up in the MullenLowe Nova Awards

The final runner up in this year’s awards is Maria Gasparian, who is a graduate of the MA Design – Ceramics course, and also received the Unilever Sustain-Ability Award which is designed to identify original and creative thought with an environmental and social impact at its core. Gasparian works with ceramics, looking at its use in contemporary architecture and urban landscapes. She uses modern industrial production methods, such as extrusion, in her work and aims to explore how ceramics bring vibrancy and identity to a place. “I believe there is a real need for public spaces that offer sensory experiences, for cultural references that engage with migrants – and for a design which improves the human condition.”

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