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News Digital and natural worlds collide at student art show

Our relationships with digital and natural environments are put under scrutiny by students at the annual Art and Design show

David Sweetmore's project 'Emotion'
Image: David Sweetmore's project 'Emotion'

How we engage with and through technology is explored across a range of artwork from final year Fine Art students including 57-year-old David Sweetmore.

The former bricklayer from Hanley has created a series of pen and ink illustrations featuring faces contorted into a range of expressions.

“I read a report that children who spend more time using technology find it harder to understand facial expressions when communicating on a one-to-one basis.” David explained.

“Because we are spending more and more time on phones and computers, we are losing important social skills so I wanted to highlight the importance of face-to-face interaction through my work.”

Course mate Amy Foster has set up ‘Xbox Kinect’ sensors which allow visitors to see their physical forms mapped in pixels across the gallery.

“I made the piece in response to the growing popularity of connected devices from smartphones to smart TVs. The piece also references sci-fi representations of what the 'future' might look like as a completely digitised world.” Amy, 21 from Kidsgrove, explained.

“As my work is interactive, I'm hoping that viewers get a sense of the importance of connectivity to the piece and how it functions, similar to how much we rely on connectivity in our daily lives.”

In contrast, Hollie Jones’ project addresses our impact on the natural environment and global concerns surrounding climate change. Her work includes framed sketches of endangered UK species sitting above empty museum-style display cases.

On a podium next to this sits a creature-like bundle of shredded paper – made from the government’s 25 year environment plan.

Hollie, 22 from Sneyd Green, said: “If we don’t improve climate change then those display cases could end up as coffins for these beautiful creatures.

“I hope that my work will educate visitors and encourage them to appreciate these vulnerable species while we can.”

Rob Noble’s project also comments on the state of the modern world through his alter-ego ‘Septimus-Smythe Fotheringale’ - a Victorian Explorer who has travelled through time to the present day.

Based on a portrait from a previous ‘selfie’ project the character, like Rob, is disabled and wears glasses.

“The explorer character took on a life on its own so I just ran with it. He is both a reflection and a metaphor for exploration in the field of Fine Art.” explained Rob, 28 from Newcastle-Under-Lyme.

Rob has created a museum dedicated to the explorer, featuring a bust in his image, artefacts including his crutch and even a portrait of Septimus’ beloved feline companion.

Next to this is a gallery of artwork created by the Septimius after he found himself in the present day.

Rob added: “Septimus’s artwork is influenced by his sense of morality and decency. It’s about the hypocrisy of the modern and highlights social and political issues such as equality.”

Get a sneak preview of the show and hear about more student projects on Staffordshire University’s YouTube Channel here.

The Art and Design Show 2019 is open to the public from Saturday 1 June 2019 – Sunday 9 June 2019. For full details and opening times visit

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