SOTY 2018: Visual Artist Judges reveal the qualities required in this category, and the balance between intuition and intellect in art

Two judges for the Student of the Year – Visual Arts award on the qualities they are looking for in contestants

Young Wang |

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Twelve outstanding young artists are gathering at the SCMP office today to prove themselves worthy of the title of the Student of the Year Visual Artist 2018. They will stand in front of a panel of judges to present themselves, their portfolio and their thoughts.

The Visual Arts award recognises excellence in drawing, painting, sculpture, crafts, and multimedia projects, as well as graphic, interior and fashion design.

Young Post caught up with two of the judges to find out what they’re looking for in this year’s best visual artist.

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Darren Long, South China Morning Post’s Head of Graphics & Magazine Design, is on the judging panel for the first time this year. Having reviewed the participating students’ artwork, academic references, awards and community work, Long says he is impressed by how many of them have taken part in international projects, but without abandoning their “roots”, and being actively involved in the local community.

Edmund Lee is impressed by students’ distinctive creativity and empathy.
Photo: Lam King Yin/SCMP

Edmund Lee, Executive Director of the Hong Kong Design Centre, is no stranger to the competition nor to working with young artists. Having served as a judge for several years, he says it’s been gratifying to meet creative talents who follow their artistic dreams, especially considering their hectic school curriculum and busy lifestyle. Nurturing creative talent requires all-rounded personal development that consists of more than school work; so exposure to different competitions and community services are also taken into account by the judges.

The veteran judge says he is most impressed by students’ distinctive creativity and empathy – the two main attributes which he believes differentiate future leaders from robots in this era of AI and blockchain.

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The judges have slightly different takes on what it means to be a great artist. Lee believes that the brightest artists and designers ought to be those who have aspirations, creative confidence, humility, commitment to continuous learning, and heightened sensibility to the environment, social issues and global trends.

Darren Long wants to learn about and understand the students’ ideas.
Photo: Bruce Yan/SCMP

Long thinks that it’s important for an artist to be articulate about their work. Art needs to be intuitive rather than intellectual, but it also needs to engage the audience and appeal to the intellect. An artist must convince viewers that his creation matters and is more than merely decorative.

When it comes to the final judging, the judges will not only be looking at the students’ ability to express themselves through different creative media, they are also keen for the candidates to demonstrate their storytelling ability, and their creative-thinking process, from concept to realisation, says Lee.

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Long agrees, adding that he’s interested to learn about and understand the students’ ideas and thought process. He wants to know whether a student can think counter-intuitively and show a willingness to stretch beyond their comfort zone; to experiment, and even to risk failure.

“What I’ll be looking for goes beyond a student’s academic smarts because technique can be learned,” Long says.

He hopes by taking part in the competition and presenting themselves in front of the judges, the students will learn to understand creativity is about more than sheer talent. He hopes that the students will gain the confidence to articulate how their creativity can be used to influence the community and other peoples’ lives and ideas.

Edited by Nicole Moraleda