People in the City: Stunning IB Artwork

Last Updated on April 2, 2023

This article features the Higher Level Investigation Workbook (IWB) and Studio Work of Naomi Ng, completed as part of the International Baccalaureate Visual Arts Diploma Programme at Sha Tin College, Hong Kong. Her project was awarded Level 7 and provides an excellent example for other IB Art students, as well as those studying high school Art qualifications such as A Level Art and Design, NCEA Painting and AP Studio Art.

Throughout her IB Art project, Naomi demonstrates a clear, personal connection to her subject matter, drawing from scenes that are rich with unexpected detail – washing hanging in a street; Chinese characters; building facades; chairs and tables in a bustling inner city food court; and a dramatic exploration of her grandfather’s fight with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Ideas about culture and the interrelationship between society and the individual lead towards captivating Studio Work: a striking example of how learning from relevant artist models can enrich and inform original student artwork.

We were lucky enough to interview Naomi about her project. Her responses are below.

IB workbook pages
Naomi’s IB workbook contains a rich combination of mediums and techniques. The pages above include well-proportioned, accurate observational drawings, using black biro pen and graphite over ripped and torn background layers.

Your IB Visual Arts submission contains highly emotive work that captivates the viewer. What ideas, subjects and themes did you explore?

Naomi: My theme was ‘People in the city’. I chose it because I liked the potential scope of this subject. During IGCSE I looked into various sides of Hong Kong: people, cityscapes and symbolic objects. As I continued to the IB, I just couldn’t choose something specific to focus on! I didn’t want to choose a theme that was too specific, so I chose something I’m interested in, yet broad enough for artistic development.

The ‘city’ I refer to is Hong Kong. Hong Kong is a visually vibrant city, a place where east meets west, old meets new. Hong Kong is place that is rich in historical culture cross linked with modernity… A crumbling building could sit right next to a skyscraper…I find that really quite impressive! In my artworks, I focused more upon the intricate yet sometimes overlooked symbolic features of Hong Kong, such as Chinese characters and newspapers.

IWB Art pages
It is the depth of meaning and ideas in Naomi’s work that lifts her project out of the ordinary. The carefully cropped Hong Kong city scenes communicate an intimate knowledge of the subject matter: first-hand experience and drawing from life, resulting in captivating, emotive IWB Art pages.

My artworks are mostly research based. The subjects and people that are featured in my paintings are usually photos I took of families, friends, or the environment that I am interested in. Generally speaking, my early paintings were about social issues in Hong Kong that I was concerned with, such as social pressures on teenagers, the influence of media and so on. However, my later works were much more personal. I tried to look at the story behind one person and gradually ‘zoom out’ to the bigger picture and see what the ‘story’ reflects about our society. For example, the piece ‘Who Am I?’ (see the last image below) is about my Grandpa’s fight with dementia and Alzheimer’s, investigating where his identity sits within society. I looked at how he looks at the world and how the world in turn looks at him.

IB Art studio work
Many high school students struggle to create portraits that are innovative or interesting; this IB Art Studio piece has a dramatic symmetrical composition, immediately engaging the viewer.

You have experimented with a wide range of different mediums in your Investigation Workbook, producing visually exciting pages. How did this range of mediums help you with your project?

Naomi: Throughout the course, I had the opportunity to experiment with a range of media. Acrylic paint is the dominant medium of my artworks, with specks of torn newspaper, tissue papers, PVA glue layers and stencilling just to spice things up. Utilizing various mediums has the power to make work ‘pop up’ from the flat canvas, and that was what I was aiming for. While I attempted to create mild textures and interesting compositions, I also experimented with the materials to investigate how they shape and form. It’s just fascinating to see how materials react in different combinations! Looking at the effects of different mediums can also provide understanding for future works.

IB art workbook examples
Students are often uncertain how to develop or extend ideas within their high school Art projects. This sequence of work shows a clear journey from initial first-hand observation, analysis of relevant artist models and development towards a resolved final piece.

Your workbook contains evidence of numerous gallery visits and the studying of artwork first-hand. How did this help inform and shape your project?

Naomi: Given that my theme revolved around the notion of Hong Kong culture, I was predominantly influenced by Chinese contemporary artists Fang Lijun, Yue Minjun, Zhong Biao and Michael Wolf (my art legends) just to name a few. Their conceptual implications or visual techniques prominently shaped my artwork. Going to galleries first-hand really opens up the chances for inspiration and getting to know more artists. My art legends first caught my interest mainly for their unique style of painting figures. They may each be stylistically different, but all very effective and it just grabs my eye in an instant. I particularly appreciated Yue Minjun’s representational, yet eye-catching compositions and his use of repeated figures. I loved his use of black humour. At first glance, the painting surface is visually stunning, but, as you look deeper, you see an underlying layer of meaning behind it… It makes you think, and that’s the power of art. That was exactly what I wanted to achieve.

This sequence of work explores the role of the individual in society. Artwork by Yue Minjun is confidently analysed within the IWB. Naomi integrates Chinese symbols from an earlier investigation, along with ideas of pixelation and anonymity, moving towards a powerful, original Studio piece.

What other advice do you have for high school Art students who are hoping to gain excellent grades?

Naomi: Experiment, experiment and experiment more! At times it might not work, but the more you try the more you’ll understand about the materials and themes you are looking at. Before you even realise, you may have developed your own style. But having a consistent style is important too…it gives a strong sense of coherency and tells others who you are. Another tip, as cheesy as it sounds, don’t be too caught up with grades. Art is subjective. Students can get high grades by doing things correctly, but your artistic development should not be hindered. As long as you are satisfied with it, you should hold your head up high and keep it coming!

IB Art studio painting
The final piece in Naomi’s IB Art project, ‘Who Am I?’ explores dementia and Alzheimers disease; the identity of the individual within society. Flawlessly composed, this arresting artwork demonstrates a depth of understanding that is well beyond Naomi’s years.

The students of Sha Tin College consistently produce outstanding artwork. We are excited and honoured to be bringing you more work from their Art department in the near future. If you enjoyed this article, you may wish to view our other Featured Art Projects, containing discussions with some of the best high school Art students taking different qualifications from around the world.


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