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Neon Zoo Art Competition

19 oktober 2017

The start of this week saw fifty enthusiastic Key Stage 3 students embark upon our two day Art Challenge – called “Upcycle! Plastic Fantastic!’.  This theme was focused upon seascapes and the impact that humans are having upon them through pollution. 

  • Neon Zoo Art Competition

Students were provided with a range of everyday plastic objects that the school community had collected for them and circular canvasses as their bases.  Pupils examined a range of media from different artists as stimuli for their own thinking.  They used their research to create their own designs and then collaborated with each other about their ideas, allowing them to use each other’s feedback and thoughts to adjust and modify their initial ideas.  This design thinking process is a very important part of our pedagogy at BISS and helps students in their own learning.  Being set a challenge, thinking through and creating a prototype or design, collaborating and receiving feedback and then redesigning based upon reflection.  Pupils’ outcomes will be displayed in the secondary foyer from Wednesday.

The same process will be followed by pupils next week as they take part in Shanghai Family’s Art Challenge “Neon Zoo”.   This time, they’ll be entering their work as part of a competition across the city, so I wish them good luck with their entries and look forward to seeing the collective outcomes at an exhibition taking place in Hongqiao at ‘The Hub’ from mid-November.


What does Neon Zoo mean to you?  When your first saw the theme, what came to your mind?

When given the title of Neon Zoo I immediately think of vibrant colours and hidden creatures in the jungle, out in the wilderness, buried underground or at the deepest, darkest depths of the sea. I imagine long forgotten species that are beautiful, delicate, dangerous and poisonous. I see these animals free from the captivity of a zoo, roaming in their natural habitats.

I have been drawn to creatures that are luminescent such as jellyfish, poisonous bugs, frogs and creepy-crawlies. On the other hand I’ve also found many tropical birds that have wonderful colours and patterns. I’ve been revisiting some of David Attenborough’s Blue Planet and BBC Earth documentaries - ranging from those featuring deep-sea pyrotechnic creatures to his light episode - where he investigates bio-luminescence on earth. They are pretty amazing to watch

As a teacher I’ve been looking at various artists for inspiration. Damien Hirst’s series of butterfly works are both distressing and uplifting when you understand the ideas behind the work. We will look at the patterns and rotations in his circular series.  MC Escher has some interesting Op Art (Optical Art) which explores tessellations and symmetry using butterflies, frogs, insects and fish.  I think the compositional designs may spark some interest.  Eugene Seguy was a French entomologist who published many portfolios of illustrations and designs from the turn of the century to the 1930s and who worked in both the Art Deco and Art Nouveau styles.   All of these artists will help to provide stimuli for the students in creating their ‘Neon Zoo’ pieces.


What elements do you expect students might include in their artworks?

As we live in a digital and technology driven world, my first point of inspiration has been to create a Pinterest board! It’s a visual brainstorm including artist works, digital prints, sculptures, wallpaper patterns and much more. This will form the basis of ideas for our students.You can see the board here. You can see examples from the artists mentioned above, as well as how these might be developed into other pieces.

I am also drawn to the gallery area where the exhibition will take place – at the Hongqiao Hub - there is a tube like corridor filled with luminescent balloons.  It reminded me of an exhibition of Verner Panton in London. Students will be made aware of this so that they can visualise what their work will look in the space.


How will students be engaging in the project?

We often create opportunities for students to challenge themselves and their thinking through Challenge Days in Art.  As you can see from the video clip accompanying this piece, which features our recent Art Challenge titled ‘Upcycle! Plastic Fantastic’, our students are familiar with the process of investigating stimuli, researching collaboratively, planning and designing, reviewing and refining and of course evaluating their learning.  This process of reflection and improvement is a key to the design-thinking process and forms an important part of our pedagogy at BISS, particularly through our collaboration with MIT.  Projects like the “Neon Zoo” and “Upcycle! Plastic Fantastic” help to develop students’ skills in the design-thinking process.  We’ve already promoted the ‘Neon Zoo” competition within both the primary and secondary school. We will be holding a meeting for our prospective


What materials do you think that students will want to use for Neon Zoo?

We’re very excited about the challenge ahead and students will receive support throughout the process in terms of planning their ideas and the materials that they’ll use.  We’ll be working on an A3 scale and our basis will be a painted subject. We’ll encourage students to work onto canvas and to create some relief and 3D elements. Many of them will want to bring in their own materials to add personality and perspective to their interpretations – which we’ll encourage.  Pupils will be using high quality materials and paints that glow in the dark, which will definitely fit in with the theme described.  They’ll hopefully provide both interesting materials to work with and at the end of the process some fantastic pieces for viewing at the exhibition. 

Rhian Dixon, Head of Art


What are your first thoughts and ideas when exploring the theme of Neon Zoo?

I think this is an exciting project because the title Neon Zoo suggests something quite different from the art projects which I’ve done previously. Immediately, it made me think about tropical animals and all the bright neon colours like pink, blue, green, yellow and orange.

To inspire us, our teacher has prepared many examples of Neon Zoo Art, which can be found in here. My favourite is Carnovsky – it looks like the artist/artists have used lino printing to print tropical animals and plants in layers - one on top of each other. It is very colourful, but in fact they have only used three neon colours to make it.

I usually get inspired by looking at the materials which are available. We will definitely be using glow in the dark paint, but I also want to use my set of neon glitters, which I usually use to make tattoos at birthday parties. I think I’ll use a sponge to make tropical animals in the background and then use my neon glitters to highlight details. My art work will probably start in 2D, but while I’m working I might change my mind and develop it into 3D. I always like to try different things before I decide how I will make it.

I like the art projects at school, because we are given the opportunity to work on a project for two whole days and we get to use materials which I don’t have at home. Apart from the Neon Zoo we also have an Art Challenge, this terms’ theme is ‘Upcycle! Plastic Fantastic’. We will recycle all kinds of plastic to create a piece of art, we are given a round canvas as a starting point, different pieces to look at and research and our community have collected together a range of plastics that we’ll use in our artwork.  I’ll use the ideas and processes from this challenge in our ‘Neon Zoo’ project next week.

Stella Oepts, Year 8 Student