2021 Graduate Vanessa T - Impacting the World Through Art

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Dulwich College Shanghai Pudong



Passion for Art and Science

Vanessa T began her Dulwich journey at Dulwich Beijing in Junior School and then came to Dulwich Pudong in Year 9 for her IGCSE and IB. In many ways she is a typical DCSPD student with strong interests and aptitudes that span both STEM and the arts.

During her time here she was both a Tech Ambassador and Art Ambassador. For her IB Higher Levels she took Art, Maths, and Physics and did her Extended Essay in physics where she investigated centripetal force and rotational inertia.

STEM was always a natural for her - she comes from a family of engineers - but choosing art as her third HL was a surprise, even to her.

Vanessa T
Dulwich gives us a lot of opportunities to explore our different interests.
- Vanessa T, Class of 2021 Alumni

"I really enjoy the artistic side that Dulwich Pudong provides as well as the maths and physics which I also really enjoy," Vanessa says. "Dulwich gives us a lot of opportunities to explore our different interests and that's really how I was able to find what I am passionate about."

Her twin interests in arts and science have led her to pursue a degree in product design. She is currently considering offers including Edinburgh and Loughborough, whose undergraduate programmes heavily feature digital art and design, skills she plans to use creating the next generation of impactful products.

Vanessa works on an IB exhibition artwork

Vanessa credits Dulwich for helping her discover her passion for design. She had always been interested in sketching, but didn't realize that it could be more than just a hobby, that, in fact, it could become the focal point of a career.

Vanessa T
My Year 9 art teacher really pushed me to explore more about the outside world.
- Vanessa T, Class of 2021 Alumni

"When I first came here, I thought art was just creating pretty stuff, pretty paintings. But my Year 9 art teacher [Mrs Boye] really pushed me to explore more about the outside world to learn about other artists and why they create their artworks and how they connected with their audiences."

That made all the difference. After immersing herself more deeply, Vanessa began to gain the confidence to branch out into new mediums, such as oil painting and clay sculpture and digital design and photography which introduced her to digital art and ultimately to the emerging field of product design.

Supporting School Initiatives

Vanessa used her artistic talents to support a number impactful school initiatives.

The stairwell project - Our Global Citizenship Prefects commissioned her to revitalize the stairwells which she re-imagined as a set of escalating book recommendations.

Charity artworks - Vanessa created numerous artworks which were auctioned off to support long-standing community partners such as The Peace Centre Uganda and Heart to Heart.

Vanessa's artwork "JOY"

Accolades - Vanessa this year took home third place in the Sustainable Solutions category in the 8th annual Dulwich Photo Competition for her photo "The Banquet #1.

The Banquet #1, award-winning piece from the Dulwich Photo Competition

IB Art Exhibition

But it was her IB art exhibition, titled "Human and Nature", specifically the bookholder piece, that really grabbed our attention.

Vanessa's bookholder piece entitled "The Cure"

The piece, which she created during the early days of the COVID lockdown, exists on a functional level but also on a symbolic level as a comment on the COVID crisis. There is the bat, the pangolin, and the human screaming and crawling away all intertwined in a single moment frozen in clay.

Vanessa T
The bookholder represents the solution - knowledge - which can solve this crisis.
- Vanessa T, Class of 2021 Alumni

Vanessa explains, "The bookholder represents a contrast between its role as a support for books but also the irony of how COVID is undermining that support; the world, civilization, the economy are in danger of collapsing because of ignorance. The bookholder represents the solution - knowledge - which can solve this crisis. I wanted to show nature getting back at humankind for all the trouble we've caused, but also to point towards the solution." The piece, ironically, is called "The Cure".

The piece was doubly challenging for the fact that campus was off limits and she could not use school kilns to fire her clay. So she had to use air dry clay which she had never used before. Because air dry clay dries very quickly, Vanessa's usual slow and methodical approach to art was challenged, spurring her to explore new avenues of technical execution.

Vanessa introduces her art at the IB art exhibition

It was, in fact, this piece that first gave her the idea that product design would be the career she would pursue. "I really enjoyed creating this artwork," she says. "While it may not be the most visually pleasing, it was the one that really brought me to who I am and helped me discover what I want to create."

Art remains a way of life for Vanessa. This summer she's keeping busy compiling her favorite artworks into a book which she plans to print in a limited edition.

Vanessa T
I want to create artworks that people remember.
- Vanessa T, Class of 2021 Alumni

"I want to create artworks that people remember," she says. "These days a lot of design is just about how aesthetically pleasing it is. I want my works to go beyond that, to make an impact on major issues that we are struggling with throughout the world."

Vanessa's IB art exhibition

The Dulwich Difference

Dulwich played a key role not just in helping her discover her passion but equipping her to pursue it.

"Dulwich is such a special environment," she says. "The IB curriculum is very competitive, but the school goes above and beyond to make the experience comfortable. Teachers here truly understand the difficulties that students go through and go out of their way to ease the stress and guide us along the way."


Vanessa T
The IB curriculum is very competitive, but the school goes above and beyond to make the experience comfortable.
- Vanessa T, Class of 2021 Alumni

A big part of that is Dulwich Pudong's commitment to wellbeing. Wellbeing sessions are part of the Senior School curriculum and the counselors and teachers are always there for students. "There's a real focus on wellbeing here," she explains. "Knowing that there are people here who are really truly committed to helping, that was really important to me through my IG/IB experience."

Head of College, Ms Caroline Taylor (right) with Head of Senior School, Ms Alison Derbyshire (left)

Vanessa also emphasises the personalised nature of the education she received at DCSPD. "It was really important particularly for me," she says. "Other students might know exactly what they want to do and they push themselves out of their own bubble, but I needed the push from the teachers. They knew that and they really helped me and guided me to what I am now."

Vanessa (second from right) with 2021 graduates

We can’t wait to see what global issue Vanessa tackles next.