Graduates 2023: Shao Ni: MA Sequential Design/Illustration

“I have acquired a deeper understanding of conducting a practice-based study through constantly moving between theory, practice and self-reflection.”

Please tell us a bit about your work and your influences

My MA project The Invisible Island is a graphic novel informed by my Taiwanese queer identity. The story begins with my protagonist S finding a mysterious journal from a Japanese botanist called Hibiki in her grandmother’s attic in Taiwan. Realising that Hibiki was in an intimate relationship with her grandmother in the 1940s, S starts to learn about an unrevealed history, which resonates with her own life circumstances. Two storylines in different times and spaces are juxtaposed throughout the book with text, drawing and found images. The work incorporates autoethnography to transcend personal narrative, aiming to humanise marginalised identities through an intersectional story.

Can you tell us a bit about your journey to you course and made you choose it?

I studied for a BFA in filmmaking and have developed a keen interest in the word-image relationship since then. After graduating, I initiated several personal projects to experiment with drawing, photography and graphic design. In 2019, I completed my debut picture book The Crow and The Cherry Blossom. Following publication, it has become increasingly clear to me that sequential narrative in books is the visual language I have been looking for. However, I didn’t want to limit myself to children’s books, so I chose Sequential Design / Illustration which is a predominantly project-based course focusing on exploring the principles of sequence through a diverse range of mediums.

What were the highlights of the course for you?

I have acquired a deeper understanding of conducting a practice-based study through constantly moving between theory, practice and self-reflection. Shifting my mindset from creator to researcher enables me to be more adaptive and experimental, consciously learning from the ever-evolving process rather than solely focusing on the product. Additionally, my perception of the purpose and value of visual storytelling has been broadened. By incorporating methods from autoethnography, my practice becomes a form of cultural interpretation through a synthesis of text and illustration; personal experience and collective history. Having access to a variety of workshops such as letterpress printing and bookbinding also encourages me to experiment, learn new techniques with support and apply them to my practice. Throughout the course, I have developed practical approaches to collecting, analysing and transforming internal and external data into potential materials for constructing the narrative.

Was the location of your course in Brighton important?

I chose to study at Brighton because it’s renowned for its diverse cultural and arts scene with large LGBTQ+ populations, and the MA course has a good reputation. Being near the sea is another point as I always enjoy spending time at the beach.

What are your plans after graduation? What’s next for you?

I plan to keep revising my work and aim to publish it shortly. I’ll also begin working on another picture book project about The White Terror history in Taiwan.

What advice would you give to someone considering doing postgraduate study?

Take your time to figure out what you really want to do through studying MA and trust yourself!

Follow Shaoni on instagram: @shaoni_art


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