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Fine art student creates life from death through artwork

UCLan student examines Victorian mourning customs in Lancashire Arts Festival project

A foundation year fine art student from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) has used Victorian mourning customs as the subject for her exhibit in this year’s Lancashire Arts Festival Degree Show.

Sara Hood, 30, from Penwortham, looked at the relationship between life and death through her sculpture. However, it is done with a twist.

Instead of humans, Sara uses animals at the centre of the exhibit; including a stag that was partly built using tree branches. Animals took centre stage in her plans to question how much humans mourn animals as opposed to people.

“Unless it is our pets, I don’t feel that we put the same emphasis on animals,” she said.

“I’ve always been interested in how the Victorian’s mourned their dead. It’s a very complicated process because there is so much to it. I did a lot of research for this piece. There were things like Memento mori, which are the photos of people that have died.

“Victorians did things like that because they wanted to keep alive the memory of people that had passed away. They were very much into the idea of not letting people completely go. The memory keeps them alive forever.”

I wanted to explore this Victorian approach to mourning in a way that put more emphasis on animals than it does humans.

This is not Sara’s first experience of the Lancashire Arts Festival. She came to the event last year prior to joining UCLan and was impressed by the exhibits on show.

It was ultimately the location, combined with the quality of UCLan’s fine art department, which convinced Sara that studying in Preston was the right thing for her.

She said: “I have two small children who are already in school and I have my husband who has a job. I couldn’t really move away. There were options that were a little further away but their art departments just didn’t seem anything near the quality of UCLan.

“Even when I walked in for the interview, there was a different atmosphere here. The students seemed supportive even from the off and they were very welcoming. The building provides us with fantastic resources as well.

“I came last year because I knew I was coming to uni. I had a look around and it was fantastic. I was just blown away because of the effort that everyone puts in with all the different ideas. You can see where people have worked down a particular avenue and come up with these ideas that you just wouldn’t think about.”

After coming to the end of her foundation year, Sara is set to enrol permanently on UCLan’s fine art course.

She added: “In an ideal world, I’d like to be an artist. It sounds a bit simple but when I started out here I was painting and drawing and that was pretty much all I was doing. I never played around with 3D much.

“Although I appreciated 3D sculptures, it wasn’t something that I felt I could do but after doing this I think I’ll be honing in on 3D art and doing much more with it. I’m excited for the next three years because by the time I finish I could be producing some really interesting things.”


Sara Hood with her sculpture

Chris Coughlin | 18 June 2018