SOTY 2014: The messages behind the masterpieces

By Ariel Conant

The finalists for the Student of the Year - Visual Artist award needed more than just creativity when explaining their vision to the judges

By Ariel Conant |

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Some artists draw with pencils, others paint with watercolours. Some create with clay and stone, and others use a computer to come up with a shape. But no matter the media, to be an artist takes creativity and passion, and that's precisely what the judges were looking for at the finalists' interviews for Student of the Year - Visual Artist.

Designer of Chocolate Rain, Prudence Mak, one of the judges on the panel, said that the contestants' drive was what caught her attention this year. "I love their vision towards their career," she said. "They all have different dreams."

Fellow judge and editor of SCMP magazine 48 Hours, Kevin Kwong, said this year's students were sure of their vision. "I think they are really articulate, they express their ideas really well," he said.

But he felt that last year's artworks had more diversity. "There hasn't been much variety in the mediums. We saw a lot of paintings," he said.

Terence Wong, the final judge and head of the department of communication design and digital media at the Hong Kong Design Institute, agreed, saying: "They are more direct, but they could be more creative in how they deliver their message."

But Mak disagreed. She felt the students who really stood out had embraced the full meaning of the topic. "A few of them have really gotten in touch with society, really had the conversation with what local Hong Kong is really about," she said. And it was just this kind of involvement that she and the other judges wanted to see in the students' artwork.

Waiting outside the judging area, the contestants admitted they were nervous about facing the judges. Angel Wong Wing-yin, 17, from True Light Girls' College, was simply happy to be there. "I never thought I could get into the final judging of this competition," she admits. "Right now I'm quite nervous, but also excited and honoured to be here to share my point of view." With her presentation and portfolio, Angel wanted to show the judges a bit of her personality, along with her passion for art.

Renaissance College student, Rainbow Tse Lok-yau, also 17, was a little jittery, but prepared. "I've been doing art for quite a while," she said. "I'm going to talk about what I have done in the past year, how I have developed." This included exploration of new mediums like water colours and illustrations.

Christina Chiu Man-yan, 16, of St Paul's Co-Educational College, was well-prepared for the competition. "I went online to research about how things [in Hong Kong] have changed," she said. "It made me observe more around me, more of my surroundings."

By gaining a deeper understanding of the theme and getting in touch with how it connected to life in Hong Kong, Christina found her artistic inspiration. "I think this is very important before starting an artwork," she said, "and it helps you to identify the subject you are going to draw."

Dylan Wan Wai-lam, a 16-year-old student from STFA Yung Yau College, took a different route when connecting with the topic. He made an animation to explore the theme, as he felt it would connect better with young people in Hong Kong.

"I think the slogan is very meaningful," he said. "I want to promote this message to my generation."

The experience had been nerve-wracking, but each contestant felt the process of applying and preparing for the competition had helped them grow in many ways. "As an artist, it's important to arrange your artwork and to think how you're going to present yourself to others," said Angel.

Dylan agreed, saying the experience was crucial to helping young artists develop further. "The judges are very experienced," he said. "They'll give comments on your work and help make you better."

And it's not just the judges who can help you develop your style and technique. "You can meet a lot of people with the same interests," said Dylan, "and you can share your experiences with them."

But the benefits of preparing for Student of the Year go beyond technical development.

"You can gain a lot of experience, you can gain a lot of friends, but also it's the recognition that gives you confidence to continue your work," says Rainbow.