Food for Thought: Laura’s Degree Show artwork addresses cost of living crisis

As energy bills and food prices continue to rise across the UK – an art student is using her creative talents to highlight the impact of the cost of living crisis as part of a University of Sunderland exhibition.

Laura Clark’s ‘Food for Thought’ installation features a pyramid of tinned food which she has relabelled with various statistics, such as 1 in 10 parents skip meals to afford food for their children and 1 in 7 people were employed whilst they were using a foodbank.

Laura, 18, from County Durham, hopes her project will inspire people to reflect on the seriousness of the cost of living crisis and be more empathetic to those who are struggling.

Visitors to the installation, which is being displayed as part of the University’s final year Degree Shows, can also take away a tin and any leftover will be donated to the foodbank at Bethany City Church in Sunderland.

Laura, who is studying a Foundation Diploma in Art Design and Media Practice at Sunderland, said: “The labels displayed are also there for people to take away and apply to their own tins, to remind them of the current situation and their possible privilege, and perhaps encourage action to support foodbanks.

“I am interested in the idea of the audience as an active participant, contributing to eradicating the issue, rather than a passive viewer.

“I want people to appreciate the precariousness of the situation and to inspire empathy.”

Laura added: “Poverty is rarely addressed in art despite it affecting real people on such a large scale. As someone who thinks of art as having the potential to bringing about change, I think there is a need for poverty to be addressed visually in the art world.”

For the last two years, the Degree Shows have been held online due to the COVID-19 pandemic – but this Saturday (June 11) the exhibitions will open to the public again as students show off their creations at venues across the city.

Professor Kevin Petrie, Head of the School of Art and Design at the University of Sunderland, said: “Even though our online showcases were really successful, it’s great to be returning to live Degree Shows this year.

“It’s also really exciting to be showcasing our students’ creativity across three venues in the city: National Glass Centre, the University of Sunderland’s Priestman Building and Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens.

“Visitors to the shows are going see an amazing diversity of themes and ways of working but what unites all of our students is a passion to comment on, reflect and change our world.

“These shows are going to be a great platform for their next steps into creative careers.”


Here are some of our other talented students having their work exhibited, which can viewed here:


Nasiba Rajapova – BA (Hons) Fashion Product and Promotion

Nasiba is among of a number of international students travelling to Sunderland from Tashkent, Uzbekistan, to take part in this year’s Degree Shows.

Her collection ‘Pretty MisMatch’ is a celebration of uniqueness and individuality.

Nasiba, 23, who is studying Fashion Product and Promotion through the University’s partner MDIS, said: “In a world of “influencers” a lot of us are vulnerable to losing our own sense of individuality.

“A lot of us become depressed just because we are insecure about not being or looking like someone else, but, in reality, we just need to find and discover our own authentic self.”

The collection is part of Nasiba’s new clothing brand, Cherie Mood.


Hulya Anefi – BA (Hons) Fashion Design and Promotion

Hulya, originally from Romania, upcycled an old Romanian military parachute to create her collection ‘Safety Starts Here’.

The 22-year-old said: “Think of the ability to bring one thing that is no longer needed back to life. That is the purpose of up-cycling.

“With fashion trends dying out so quickly and having negative effects like overconsumption, we need to think of different ways to reuse what we already own. Inspired by this method, I was able to create my six-silhouette collection.”

Hulya is currently focusing on opening her own fashion studio in Romania.


Rodrigues Goncalves – BA (Hons) Artist Designer Maker: Glass and Ceramics

Rodrigues is taking inspiration from Leonardo di Vinci’s ‘Vitruvian Man’ for his main exhibition piece.

The 21-year-old’s artwork ‘Homo Sapiens’ is a life-size glass human skeleton covered in 22 karat gold which questions the importance of objects in today’s society.

Originally from Portugal, Rodrigues moved to Scotland when he was 18 and worked at the Powderhall Bronze foundry in Edinburgh which offers a place for artists to create work as well as carry out restorations and conservations. Around two years later, Rodrigues joined the Glass and Ceramics programme at Sunderland.


Emma Mercedes Riis – BA (Hons) Artist Designer Maker: Glass and Ceramics

Originally from Northern Denmark, 28-year-old Emma trained as a glassblower in Sweden, Denmark and France before settling in the north-east to pursue her career as an artist.

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