Fine art student's images of war clinch the Searle Award for Creativity

Published: 19 May 2009 at 15:22

Celebrated former student gives creative awards to budding art students

Anglia Ruskin University has presented the second set of awards to students of Cambridge School of Art who entered the Searle Award for Creativity.

The annual competition, initiated by the great artist and alumnus of Anglia Ruskin University Ronald Searle, has been devised to recognise excellence in a range of artistic disciplines including fine art, illustration, digital art and graphic design, film or video, photography, animation and 3D design.

The theme of the competition was ‘War and Conflict’, an area which Ronald Searle had studied at first hand during World War II when he was held by the Japanese in Singapore.

The winner of the Searle Award for Creativity 2009 was judged as third-year BA (Hons) Illustration and Animation student, Monika Umba (32) who was praised for her series of impactful digital prints which represent her belief that the ‘faces of war never change.’  The prints represent two sides of the coin; war providing opportunity to some, and diminishing the rights of others. 

She uses original quotes and captions to underline the strengths of her work and includes the words of Bertrand Russell - ‘War does not determine who is right, only who is left.’

Martin Salisbury, Reader in Illustration and one of the judging panel commented that,

“Monica's extensive body of work combined intelligent use of visual metaphor with well-crafted execution.”

Speaking about the prize win, Monika said:

“I am delighted and honoured to have won this prestigious award. It is tangible proof that with a bit of hard work and persistence, dreams can come true.”

“Since obtaining ‘highly commended’ for my work in last year’s Searle Award for Creativity I have been determined to work as hard as I can to win the first prize this year. As soon as I heard the topic my mind went into a brainstorming mode. My first ideas were to make another animation, however I soon rejected this idea due to the time constraints. Eventually, the ideas took form of ‘good old’ hand painted, digitally altered posters – I thought they would be the conveyor of my thoughts about War and Conflict.”

“I would like to express my gratitude to Ronald Searle and the organisers of the competition for presenting such a great opportunity to students of Anglia Ruskin University. I would like to thank my tutors, who played a major role in my success.”

Ronald Searle, who now lives in France, was not able to be at the awards ceremony. He has been described as the greatest graphic artist of our time. His distinctive brand of visual commentary and satire has been familiar to generations through seven decades of continuous output. 

The prize for the top work was £3000. Two awards of £500 were also presented for highly commended work. 

These went to Ruozhu Sun, a student studying for an MA in Children’s Book Illustration; and Caz King, a third-year BA (Hons) Fine Art student.

Ruozhu’s work was submitted as a children’s book which outlines the conflict between China and Taiwan, while Caz entered nine photographs taken in London, initially of the G20 protests.

Other shortlisted students included Benjamin Parker, studying for an MA in Children’s Book Illustration; Gary Verby, a BA (Hons) Film and Television Production student; and Erica Bohr, a BA (Hons) Fine Art student.

Speaking of all the shortlisted works, Reader in Fine Art and judge David Ryan said:

“They displayed a degree of control and invention in dealing with the subject matter, together with a creative approach: whether through form, narrative or approach to materials.  Within the final judging process, what was most clear was that this was a close-run contest, with work of quality in each of the represented areas.”

Professor Anthony Harrild, Head of Cambridge School of Art added:

“This competition is now firmly established within the Cambridge School of Art’s events calendar. It creates a tremendous excitement which brings out the very best in our students.”

For more information about the awards, please contact Caroline Hyde, Business Development Manager for Cultural and Creative Industries on 0845 196 2995 or