AUT's Here Are You 08

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On Wednesday Steven and I wandered along to the opening of HERE ARE YOU, an exhibition of student illustration from AUT’s Art and Design school. The exhibition is a culmination of a six week assignment in which students are asked to document their environment through the process of drawing. They are to “record and synthesise their responses to their physical and mental locations”.

Back when I was at AUT (and even thinking of how to phrase a sentence like this makes me feel old) we were the first class to be given this assignment. It was probably the most fun I had in all of 3rd year. The brief is purposefully loose, and allows you to have a play-about with what you’re doing in a way that a lot of design assignments don’t. Crucially, this project is based around the process rather than the final outcome – if you’re being marked on the journey rather than the destination, then you aren’t constantly worried about finishing up in the wrong place. It makes for a varied and exciting body of work, as this exhibition shows.

The HERE ARE YOU project is given to 3rd year illustration students every year. The idea is that after a while the resulting illustrations will become a documentary of not just how Auckland is, but also how it was and how it is changing. Although currently AUT is the only school doing it, the hope is that the project will be taken up by other cities around the world, and eventually the visual documentation we’ve gathered on Auckland can be compared with the equivalent story of Kuala Lumpur, or Stockholm, or Nelson or whatever. Hopefully the concept will spread and continue to grow until there’s some kind of Google Earth thing somewhere, but in sketchbook illustration form.

Good illustration, it’s been argued, is more about observation than technical ability or grand ideas. I think I might agree with that. Everyone has grand ideas, any artist or designer can fill sketchbook after sketchbook with concepts and bright sparks, and if they can’t then they need another occupation. And technical ability is only as good as what you do with it, any student exhibition will have several examples of perfectly executed but empty and ultimately boring work that can stand as a testament to that. But for me the highlights of this show (and others like it) are the pieces that capture something real, that show something beyond the insular scope of the art world and give us more than just surface. Anyone can draw a man in the street, but the ones that excite me are the artists who both notice, and capture, the particular way he walks, who take in enough detail to make the street look like the street that it is, and not any street from anywhere.

HERE ARE YOU is full of good illustration. The exhibition runs until Monday 30th June and is well worth checking out.

AUT School of Art & Design Present a 3rd Year Illustration Exhibition:

June 25-30.
St Paul St Gallery 3, 39 Symonds St, Auckland.

Hours vary:
Thurs & Fri 9am-4pm
Sat 10am-4pm
Mon 9am-2pm

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