Winners of 2015 Research as Art competition announced

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Seventeen stunning images, and the fascinating stories behind them – such as medieval women brought to life, the haunting beauty of the microscopic world, and the vibrant colours of Rio de Janeiro – have today been revealed as the winners of the 2015 Research as Art competition.

The overall winner is Dr Sparky Booker from the College of Arts and Humanities, with her entry “Rising from the Page”, illustrating the challenges of her research on women and justice during the Middle Ages.
The competition celebrates the diversity and beauty of research at Swansea University – a top 30 research university - and the creativity and impact of its researchers.

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Picture:  Rising from the Page, the overall winning entry from Dr Sparky Booker, College of Arts and Humanities, who works on a pan-UK project led by Swansea University on medieval women and justice

See all 17 winning entries

Research as Art is the only competition of its kind, open to researchers from all subjects, and with an emphasis on telling the research story, as well as composing a striking image.
92 entries were received from researchers - staff and students alike -  in many different subjects across the University

‌A distinguished judging panel of senior figures from the Royal Institution,, the Science and Technology Facilities Council, and Art Across the City, selected a total of seventeen winners.  

Along with the overall winner, there were judges’ awards in four categories relating to engagement – inspiration, emotion, illumination, and innovation – and 12 highly-commended entries.

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Pictures:  awards for engagement (from top); "Micro Moon", Mark Coleman, Engineering (Inspiration); "Passion and Perseverance", Liza Penn Thomas, English (Innnovation);  "Favela Painting", Richard Smith, Geography (Illumination); "Who am I?", Tracey Sagar and Debbie Jones, Criminology (Emotion).

300 x 200Flora Graham, digital editor of New and one of the judges, said:

"Research is more than the hard facts that make it into the papers and journals – the Research as Art competition reveals the day-to-day human experience that lies beneath the results. 

The winning entries combine pictures and words to give a glimpse into the beauty, variety and complexity that researchers discover during the process of working."

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Competition founder Dr Richard Johnston, senior lecturer in materials science at Swansea University, said:  

“Research as Art is an opportunity for researchers to reveal their personal story, their humanity, their inspiration, and emotion. 

It can also be a way of presenting their research process, and what it means to be a researcher; fostering dialogue, and dissolving barriers between universities and the wider world.”

Research as Art is organised by Swansea University Research Forum.

300 x 148Judging panel:

  • Prof. Gail Cardew –Professor of Science, Culture and Society at the Royal Institution
  • Flora Graham – Digital Editor of
  • Prof John Womersley – Chief Executive Officer of the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and Research Councils UK executive board
  • David Hastie, Director of Art Across the City and LOCWS International

Research as Art 2015 winners on the BBC

Overall winner Dr Sparky Booker is a researcher on a pan-UK project led by Swansea University, which explores how women in the UK and Ireland from 1100 to 1750 found different ways to use the justice systems at their disposal.   

‌Dr Gail Cardew, Professor of Science, Culture and Society at the Royal Institution, said of Dr Booker’s entry:

“What I particularly like about this photograph is that a simple paper chain of women, exactly the same all in a row, has given me an insight into the practical challenges Sparky faces. In historical research of this nature, can generalisations be made? Or does the responsibility of the researcher lie in bringing the stories of the individuals to light?”

300 x 363Dr Sparky Booker, pictured, overall winner of Research as Art 2015, said:

“The women in my picture are built out of images of documents and sources.  As historians that’s all we have to access their lives and experiences

The idea was to show the limitations of historical research.  If it’s not recorded in a document we won’t know about it, for example; and there are questions of stereotyping.  

But the image itself is very hopeful.  Women are being resurrected out of the documents.  They are standing and almost moving, which fits in with my research on how women were agents, using justice systems to take some control over their fate.   

It’s very exciting for me as a historian to think that people will be looking at this image and thinking about medieval women and their experience with the law. 

They haven’t been represented in history enough.”  

Find out more about the research on medieval women by Dr Booker and colleagues
BBC TV report on the team's research


Watch this 5 minute film: overall winner and award winners telling the stories behind their winning entries