University of Brighton Alumni Association


Arts alumnae reunite in China

University life brings a bounty of experiences, not just your qualifications – none more so than the strong friendships you forge with people from all over the world. We were delighted to hear from Brighton alumna Natalie Knowles (Sequential Design/Illustration MA 2009) who recently visited a fellow graduate, Yishi Fu (Arts and Design by Independent Project MA 2010) in China. Natalie shared her experience with us.

“In 2010, Yishi and I said goodbye in the gardens of the Brighton Pavilion. Fast-forward to July 2017 and I found myself in Chongqing – a boiling hot megacity in south-west China, giving a presentation about my illustrations to a packed room full of artists and creatives with Yishi as co-presenter. Yishi is doing extremely well in Chongqing. She is an interior design teacher at a university.

“The venue for our presentation was Testbed 2, a converted factory in the Yuzhong District which now houses creative businesses. There were music, wine and beautiful desserts, including local fruit that I had bought with my team of students at the market that morning. It was a completely unique experience to be the only western person and to be welcomed like a celebrity.

“I showcased three years’ worth of illustrations based on my home town, Sheringham. The audience was amazed and intrigued by Sheringham’s carnival, the Viking festival and the Lobster Potty weekend. The picture, Announcement at the Town Clock, gained new meaning for me as a result of my visit to Chongqing. The illustration was meant to depict a rainy day in March, but in China, people use umbrellas as parasols to shield themselves from the sun. Having endured 40°C heat, where just standing still outside induced a sweat, I will never look at that picture in the same way again!

“After a 30-minute presentation, there was an hour of enthusiastic questions. The main comment of the evening was that my love for my home town was palpable and this emotion is abundantly clear in my artwork. Fellow artists, Alex (the owner of Testbed 2); Jizong, a talented oil painter and Songkang, a fellow illustrator, said how refreshing it was to see an original artist and true creative in an industry where there is so much imitation and replication of other artists’ styles.

“For me, who communicated with the help of my dear friend Yishi, it was career-affirming to cross continents and find that artists speak a universal language.

“I am so very proud that I am using all the skills that I learnt on the MA in my day job. Without the MA and the University of Brighton I would not be where I am now.”

You can find out more about Natalie’s work and her trip to China here.


Sarah Grant • August 30, 2017

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  1. N¡na September 5, 2017 - 6:04 pm Reply

    I never cease to be inspired by the work of our Arts alumni. I’m so happy you share their achievements and experiences in this blog. Natalie’s MA project excited me (as a cyberpunk literature fan back in the day) and I’m glad to read she is continuing to have success.

    Stories like this makes me optimistic for the future. I can’t wait to see where my University of Brighton award will take me.

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