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Degree Shows 2023: Life-changing journey inspires artwork

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Published on 09 June 2023

Anna-Marie Gallares working on her tapestry at the University of Sunderland
Anna-Marie Gallares working on her tapestry at the University of Sunderland

A life-changing move from the Philippines to the UK at seven-years-old – has inspired budding artist Anna-Marie Gallares to create a rich tapestry of her life and journey.

Anna-Marie’s parents made the brave decision to leave their family home in Cebu City and travel more than 6,000 miles in search for a better life and opportunities for Anna-Marie and her younger sister. 

Anna-Marie, who was just a child when they arrived in the UK in 2008, said: “From my seven-year-old self‘s point of view, my first year in England was filled with positive emotions of curiosity, wonder and excitement. I also had my fair share of difficulties, such as struggling to fit in, not understanding or speaking English and just the unfamiliarity with everyday life.”

Fast-forward 15 years and Anna-Marie and her family are happily settled in the north-east. Anna-Marie’s parents – Cristina and Ananias – and sister Bea-Marie, 16, live in Newcastle and Anna-Marie is currently living in Sunderland while she studies a Fine Art degree at the University of Sunderland.

Anna-Marie, 21, said: “The north-east of England is my home, where I grew up, and it is familiar. The Philippines has a place in my heart and identity, but I left when I was young and feel now, as an adult, I need to go back and revisit the connection of my routes.  

“It is important to my parents that my sister and I be aware of our Filipino heritage, which we practice within our home, such as speaking Bisaya (Filipino dialect) and eating Filipino food cooked by my mother, recipes she learnt from my grandmother—bringing my parents’ upbringing in the Philippines to our home in the UK.”

As a way of connecting with her Filipino heritage, Anna-Marie has decided to tell her story through her own painted tapestry.

Inspired by the story-telling styles of English artists Grayson Perry and Emma Talbot, Anna-Marie’s 18ft tapestry entitled A Year In My Life is filled with striking and vivid patterns depicting 20 childhood memories from her first year in the UK. 

In celebration of her Filipino-British identity, Anna-Marie’s tapestry also includes an array of Filipino tattoo designs, taking inspiration from 106-year-old Filipina tattoo artist Whang-od. 

Anna-Marie said: “I feel that within art, immigration has always been a strong topic, but in contrast, I have never seen art that is specific to Filipino immigration. 

“Coming into this country at such a young age, I have my own story and experience of British culture and how people have responded to me being a Filipina immigrant. I have expressed my experiences in a painted tapestry format to showcase my journey in a story centralising the pride of my Filipino-British identity.”

Anna-Marie’s tapestry is being displayed as part of the University of Sunderland’s annual Degree Shows – a series of exhibitions in the city highlighting the array of artistic talent from the University's final year art and design students.   

It is an opportunity for students to exhibit their work publicly, which for many is their first major public exhibition. 

Professor Kevin Petrie, Head of School of Art and Design at the University of Sunderland, said: “Our Degree Shows are a culmination of the hard work and dedication our students put into the final year of their course, where they build their professional practice, skills and experience. It is also a celebration of their creativity and the beginning of their exciting new journey as creative professionals. 

“Our students use creativity to make the world a better place – they explore, experiment, challenge, inspire and delight through their work. So, visitors to the Degree Shows will see a diverse blend of traditional and cutting-edge skills across three venues in the city – the University’s Priestman Building, National Glass Centre and Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens.” 

Below are some of the University’s other talented students having work exhibited at this year’s Degree Shows, which open on Saturday (June 10). 

Jared Turner – Animation and Games Art

Jared has created a trailer for his own original movie adaptation of one of the most famous folk tales in the north-east – The Lambton Worm, a great slithering beast that terrorised County Durham in the middle ages.

Jared’s eerie trailer shows a gigantic serpent-like creature wrapping itself around Penshaw Monument in the darkness, letting out a terrifying scream as it is lit up by a bolt of lightning. 

Jared, 21, from Bishop Auckland, said: “I’ve always been captivated by this story because it’s locally based, and I also found it quite scary. Nobody seems to have done a horror or thriller style adaptation of it, so this was my way of being different.

“If it were a real film, it would be as if 300 were set in Sunderland – but there's a big worm in it. Just big dumb fun with muscles and explosions!”

Jared’s ambition is to work in key art or concepts for television shows such as Doctor Who, as he says it is programmes like that which first inspired him to pursue a creative career. 

Sam Clinton – Illustration and Design 

Sam’s exhibition piece is a wordless graphic novel entitled The Necromancer, which he has written and illustrated in full. 

Sam’s project has been inspired by Matias Bergara’s Step by Bloody Step, a wordless graphic novel published by Image Comics in 2022, and the work of Australian artist, writer and film-maker Shaun Tan and Alan Moore, an English author known primarily for his work in comic books, including Watchmen, V for Vendetta, Batman: The Killing Joke, and From Hell

Sam, 21, from Sunderland, said: “I had produced a lot of character design work in the previous semesters, so I wanted to create something that allowed me to use my character designs in a final finished product. In my eyes a graphic novel was the perfect medium for this. 

“Writing it myself also gave me the complete freedom to have the characters and locations exactly how I intended, rather than working from an already existing source, which was really fun to do.”

During his studies, Sam has been able to get involved in a number of projects with the Sunderland Creatives Agency. Supported by Sunderland-based communications consultancy Creo Comms, this is a student-led creative agency where students get to work on paid live projects. Sam’s work includes helping design the chapter header illustrations for an educational book and working on a set of greetings cards for the University’s alumni team. 

Phoebe Wymes-Arthur – Photography, Video and Digital Imaging

Phoebe's exhibition – A Proper Days Work – is a black and white documentary-style series of images depicting the day to day running and activities that take place on a working farm. 

Phoebe, from Bardon Mill, said: “Growing up in the Northumberland countryside I’ve always been interested in farming and the reality of what goes on. I think people who haven't been on a farm should see what it's like and hope my project can help them get an understanding.”

The 21-year-old has recently accepted a job as a medical photography technician at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary and is looking forward to starting her training soon. 

Phoebe was supported in the first year of her studies by a £1,000 Robson Art and Design Scholarship. It meant she was able to purchase a camera and continue her studies from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Lauren Crossman – Fashion Design and Promotion 

Lauren has created a six-piece collection inspired by the history and political struggles of the LGBTQI+ community.

Each outfit is focused on a different political or historical event, from the Stonewall riots to the individual struggles of ‘coming out’. Lauren has used different colour palettes and a variety of fabric to create a vast range of silhouettes, including dresses and suits. 

Lauren, 21, from Blyth, said: “As a queer individual I educated myself on the history and politics surrounding the LGBTQ+ community and came to realise that many individuals do not realise how much controversy there is and the history surrounding the community.

“So I wanted to create a collection of garments that are statements in themselves to get the conversation started and help engage people in learning about the community to help raise awareness of the struggles.

Lauren’s collection will also be displayed at the University’s St Peter’s campus on June 22 as part of the #SaferToBeMe conference. The conference, which features the iconic Amsterdam Rainbow Dress, has been organised by human rights charity ReportOUT in partnership with the University to address the rights of sexual and gender minorities. 

Agata Lis – Graphic Design

Agata has used her strong illustrative skills to produce a book without words for her Degree Shows project.

Slavic Mythology is a tale of the dark ages inspired by the Slavic tradition to pass stories down by word of mouth rather than written word.

Agata, who was born and raised in Poland, explained: “The idea for this book came from the specific approach my ancestors took to writing down their heritage. I decided that this is a great opportunity to transform something well-known to me into something new with great potential.

“The ancient Slavs believed that a real man has everything he needs to remember in his head and only weak-minded people have to write down the things they need to remember. I decided to take advantage of this and create a book that needs to be discovered by Augmented Reality (AR) technology.”

Readers can scan Agata’s illustrations with their mobile phones using the “Halo AR” application, and discover the text hidden on the page. 

Agata said: “This is an extremely entertaining way of reading the book and it is a great way to encourage more people to read. I am convinced younger people will enjoy it the most.”

Katie Glazier – Artist Designer Maker: Glass and Ceramics

Using ceramics and alternative materials, Katie has explored theme of late diagnosed adult dyslexia and its consequent challenges, emotions and complexities that can be experienced through learning and society. 

Focusing on form, experimental shape and colour to portray her personal journey, each piece embodies or represents a different personal dyslexic trait and forms a collective of sculptural works. 

Katie, 36, said: “The work is experimental with a sense of doubtfulness and uncertainty. I am drawn to colours and palettes which are often somewhat naive and ambiguous, giving the work a carefree and light-hearted feel, which belies the seriousness of the subject matter.”

After graduation, Katie plans to set up a studio at her home in Hexham and return to Sunderland to study a Masters degree in Visual Practice.

More information on this year’s Degree Shows, including when and where to see them, can be found here.