SOTY 2017: Visual Artist judges are looking for creativity and confidence

By Sebastien Raybaud

Judges Kevin Kwong and Edmund Lee let us know what special qualities they want in this year’s candidates

By Sebastien Raybaud |

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Edmund Lee is Executive Director of Hong Kong Design Center and wants to see candidates experiment with different mediums.

As the annual Student of the Year (SOTY) competition continues to scout for young talent, Young Post caught up with two of the judges to find out what they’re looking for in this year’s best visual artist.

The competition is open to local secondary students in grades 10 to 12, with a maximum of two nominees per school for each category. In this year’s contest, the visual artist category includes drawing, painting, sculpture, crafts, and multimedia art. Graphic design, interior design and fashion design are also included, while photography is not.

Kevin Kwong, SCMP’s Culture Editor, wants the winner in the visual arts category to be imaginative and expressive in their work.

“The winner should be creative and be able to articulate their ideas clearly, intelligently and freely through their work. Regarding their works, they must show good techniques, good sense of aesthetics to impress me, and humour is always a plus,” says Kwong.

Edmund Lee, Executive Director of the Hong Kong Design Centre, agrees. Lee says the winner must be someone who is true to himself or herself, and who is able to express themselves through their artworks.

Student nominees will be assessed on their awards and other forms of recognition, their portfolios and community service records. Of the three, Kwong considers the student portfolio to be most important.

SCMP's culture editor Kevin Lee also values social awareness and responsibility.
Photo: Nora Tam/SCMP

“Having a strong portfolio tells me more about them as a person as well as about their artistic practise. You don’t have to be a straight A student to be a good artist, right? I want to see how the artistic students experiment with different mediums and how they develop as an artist,” he said.

Lee also feels that students’ personal development is important, but says all three categories must be equally assessed.

“I do see the need for students to be developed in a balanced way, [taking equally into account] their awards, portfolio and community service.”

This, however, doesn’t mean the awards solely recognise the work of high-achieving students, Lee added.

“Though I don’t see awards as necessarily major considerations, I do value participation and the learning process through open competition. Community service is about social awareness and responsibility. Participation in community service contributes not only to societal good causes but also demonstrates students’ self-discipline and good time management amid their school commitments,” he said.

As this year’s visual arts competition is centred around creativity, the judges were asked how they and the young artists should define this.

“For me, being creative is [about being] comfortable and confident in your own skin,” said Kwong. “We are all different and unique but it does take courage to show off your individuality and ideas through art. So, being creative also means being brave and not to be afraid to express your own ideas. The most important thing as an artist is that you believe in yourself and your works.”

While Lee also thinks creativity is a platform for the artists to try new things and freely express themselves, he says there are more elements to consider: “From the design perspective, the power of visualisation is an invaluable skill as the world pursues the creative economy”.

He says creativity is a skill that should be gradually worked on.

“As part of Steam [science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics] subjects, this allows students to learn their craft. I encourage students to embrace their artistic interest and further develop their creative competence as part of their overall learning.”

Apart from being an artist and a great student, competitors need to be individuals.

“I also encourage students to develop good communication skills and acquire heightened sensitivity to our environment, diverse cultures and peoples round us,” said Lee. “Creativity needs to be nurtured through humility, curiosity and discipline.”

The Student of the Year Awards competition is organised by South China Morning Post and Young Post and sponsored by The Hong Kong Jockey Club.  

Edited by Charlotte Ames-Ettridge