Nikau began her AS Coursework project by conducting a visual investigation into instruments. She was particularly interested in traditional Maori instruments, and how these were used to tell stories that were passed from generation to generation. Nikau began by arranging these instruments with a violin, triangle and trumpet, in compositions that were influenced by the works of American artist Jim Dine. Vertically aligned, the instruments faded in and out of messy textural backgrounds, in the way that a memory or story might ebb and flow through generations – clear and distinct in some places; blurry and obscured in others. Often these grounds were ‘found’ – i.e. bits of splattered pieces of paper that Nikau then worked over with washes of paint and ink. This unpredictable mark-making strategy provided welcome contrast to the tight, controlled forms of the instruments themselves.
Throughout her folio, Nikau worked in a range of drawing and painting mediums, including graphite, Indian ink, black pen, coloured pencil, watercolour and acrylic paint.
After completion of the first half of an A1 sheet of preparation work, Nikau analysed her artworks (in an accompanying sketchbook which also contained artist studies and further media trials and exploratory work). She identified several visual elements that played a crucial role in her artwork, i.e. the repetition of strong vertical lines (violin neck and strings / trumpet pipes etc); the repetition of curving, organic form (body of the violin and the kowhaiwhai patterns in the carvings on the Maori instruments). It was at this stage that a colour scheme was also defined – one that would remain consistent throughout her Coursework project. These aspects of the composition were considered carefully, not just in terms of their aesthetic potential, but in terms of how they might allow her to best represent and express her ideas. For example, the repetition of vertical lines – which became more prevalent throughout her folio – might help to express the passage of time, and the linking of common forms was a way to illustrate the connection of ideas from past to present.
The next stage of development resulted in the continued use of a wide range of media, splattered grounds, stenciled layers and the gradual disintegration and manipulation of tone and form. The vertical reflective lines on the trumpet were transposed onto to the surface of the violin and into parts of the background, while kowhaiwhai patterns from the carved instruments become a graphic element that interlaced across different parts of the painting. Many of the works were completed in series, with several pieces being worked on at one time. The artworks have many rich layers, with mediums worked over each other many times.
Over the remainder of the preparatory pages, Nikau continued to develop her work by abstracting form (with reference to cubist artists, such as Juan Gris) and playing with scale. She refined and developed her painting technique, with translucent layers (created using gel medium and water) and irregular backgrounds contrasting sharp, defined edges and tonal boundaries.
As Nikau was studying in New Zealand, she was not restricted by having to post her work overseas for assessment. As such, she was free to trial painting on wooden boards. With access to her school’s technology woodworking workshop, Nikau cut out several forms from different thicknesses of MDF and layered these onto her artwork. This made the surface of her work slightly sculptural and 3D.
The aspects of Nikau’s Coursework Project that were particularly successful (aside from her obvious strength in observational drawing and painting) are the personal nature of the folio, and the creative and confident handling of media.
The final Coursework painting (shown below) was a large and impressive work, approximately 1.4m wide, on an MDF framed board.
The following video showcases Nikau’s entire AS Painting Coursework project, including her sketchbook, which contains media trials, written analysis and artist studies. (Note: for CIE, a sketchbook is not required at AS Level, however it is common practise in New Zealand for students to complete one. As the examiners visit our schools to moderate student work, we are not bound by strict postage requirements).
Want to see more inspirational student artwork? View our Featured Art Projects.
Amiria has been an Art & Design teacher and a Curriculum Co-ordinator for seven years, responsible for the course design and assessment of student work in two high-achieving Auckland schools. She has a Bachelor of Architectural Studies, Bachelor of Architecture (First Class Honours) and a Graduate Diploma of Teaching. Amiria is a CIE Accredited Art & Design Coursework Assessor.