Graduate Interview | Elam Fine Arts | Part One

This year, as part of our Graduate Series, Artists Alliance is running group interviews series with Graduates from various visual arts schools throughout Aotearoa. This latest interview is in two parts, and features recent graduates from Elam at the University of Auckland, sharing moments from their time at art school. This interview was made possible due to the fantastic Elam Graduate website.

Can you tell us about a stand out moment from your time studying at Elam?
What does your work look / sound / feel / smell like?

Ashlin Rawson

The stand out moment I had at Elam was discovering and establishing my own personal style. Walking into Elam as a clean slate, I was given the opportunity to experiment and put new ideas to the test. It wasn’t long before past tutors and students I had worked with could enter a space and point out my imagery.


Ashlin Rawson, Mirror Text 1 “I think I could turn into you if I really tried” (photo courtesy of the University of Auckland)

My work looks cinematic (French new wave), sounds like a desolate sitcom, smells like acetone, and feels like home.


Felixe Laing

Finding a practice in ceramics and becoming a part of a student ceramics community has been a stand out experience during my time at Elam. Without a dedicated ceramics technician, I have learnt from my peers by swapping glazes and tips. I will greatly miss starting my day by wondering through the foundry to see what successes and what mishaps are warm from the kiln.


Felixe Laing, Holding On Letting Go Letting On Holding Go, ceramic flowers. (photo courtesy of the artist)

My work is quiet, there is a sense of rest and balance in this collection of objects. The gentle draft in the room spins the wreaths and the pink silk curtain breathes over the pebble where it meets the floor. There is also an intensity as these objects are responses to my experience of grief. Poetic text and titles which I have written inscribe these personalised symbols and narratives of grief. There is a contrast of soft and hard; draped fabrics and fragile ceramics. For me there is an echo of the ceramic flowers falling and breaking against the concrete ground, this lingers in this space as it was the last step of installation and gesture of letting go.


Felixe Laing, I’m wearing you, the thought of you in my head, through my ear, silk, ceramic earrings, copper, wood (photo courtesy of the artist)


Hanna Petrick

Apart from taking part in the Elam Grad Show, the most standout moment from my time at Elam was witnessing the work of my peers develop into very distinct practices. Seeing everyone that I had worked with for so long pull together four years of hard work and relentless critiquing and self-reflection into a stunning presentation was really something special.


Hanna Petrick, Dwelling, 300 x 160 cm, acrylic and oil on canvas (photo courtesy of the University of Auckland)

My work developed out of the contemplation of different structures from architecture, rock formations and organic matter. In my painting, these elements intertwine and enfold, passing from one form to another across a large three-panel work.


Hanna Petrick, Dwelling (detail) (photo courtesy of the University of Auckland)


Kathy-Lee Dixon

The four year journey at Elam School of Fine Arts, University of Auckland, has produced many ‘stand-out moments’.  The most significant being my recent BFA(Hons) research project titled ‘frames and bodies’ (2016).  My interest in understanding the psychology of ‘self’ stem from being a fraternal twin.  Having the ability to work on a yearlong project meant I could investigate a deeper theoretical context and apply it to my visual art practice. It has opened up an entirely new world for me as I discover the meaning and effects of twin-ship relations from a twin perspective.  The outcomes are reflections of my own lived experience and expressed through a visual art making process, where words don’t suffice.


Kathy-Lee Dixon (photo courtesy of the artist)

The soft sculptural bodies are made from second-hand mattress protectors.  The seams are intentionally exposed on the outside and each body has been produced as a paired form but are uniquely different.  They reflect gestures that portray vulnerability and the complexity of human solidarity.


Kathy-Lee Dixon (photo courtesy of the artist)

Liu Yuan

In our group offsite exhibition What Do I Want? Where Do I Stand?, as a part of the ceramic group: Many hand. We have mass produced handcraft cups, that can be used by the visitors during the show. I enjoyed this experience of building the work and also the relationship in the studio.

[My work] looks mundane yet ambiguous, and is full of playfulness.

Mandy Ka Wai Chan

There are lots of standout moments in Elam, but especially when organising the exhibition From one place to another with my peers in our final year, which was one of the unforgettable moments! Deciding the theme and dealing with all the tiny details by us was not an easy job but it was a great experience, to let us understand how an exhibition works and become independent and autonomous.


Mandy Ka Wai Chan, Let me tell you a story (2016). Installation (photo courtesy of the artist)

My artistic practice focuses on self-reflection, the continuity of story development and the behaviour of storytelling. Inspiration by experience, expressing moments that have marked an understanding of the past and influenced my present, this work connects my memories. By forming a series of animations based on my own experiences, this work shows my sentiment and thoughts by storytelling, which investigates the areas of being and becoming, time, space, motion and change, and inviting people to explore the uncertainty of my inner world.


Mandy Ka Wai Chan, Inside Me (2016). Animation, LCD Monitor, MDF (photo courtesy of the artist)