Now in its second year, the Gwangmyeong City Design Competition continues to forge a collaborative, creative relationship between South Korea and New Zealand. Last week, Richard travelled to Gwangmyeong with this year’s winner, Massey University Visual Communication Design Student, Daniel Voss. The pair weren’t alone. Joining them was Wellington City Councillor, Simon Marsh, there to sign a Memorandum of Understanding as part of the South Korean city’s Fantasy Week, proudly supported by Weta Workshop. Daniel’s fantasy design work featured throughout the event, and Richard had something special planned too, lurking in the caves beneath the city...

Richard has been an enthusiastic advocate for creative collaboration between South Korea and New Zealand and a judge of the competition. This year, he was involved in finalist judging for the Korean winners and selected the New Zealand winner, choosing from a commendable body of works Daniel’s vision of a future world where nature has asserted itself over man.

“The image was inspired by how we neglect nature here on Earth,” says Daniel. “I wanted to explore what a world would be like if nature was much more prominent and menacing. That’s why there are so many large vibrant plants and insect-like creatures. Man is not in control here. The tables have turned. The world of Pandora from Avatar was definitely a big inspiration for this.”

In judging the competition, Richard was looking for technical ability, cinematic qualities, originality and, most importantly, terrific story-telling.

“In a single image, Daniel has captured an intriguing and immersive fantasy future. We are drawn into the frame and find ourselves fighting for survival alongside our stranded protagonist on a planet that feels entirely alien, yet eerily familiar at the same time. It’s a very well executed piece.”

- Richard Taylor, CEO and Co-founder, Weta Workshop

19 year-old Daniel, originally from Palmerston North, is in his second year at Massey. A lot of his inspiration comes from traditional artists including Edgar Payne, John Singer Sargent and James Gurney.

“Daniel is an incredibly hard-working student,” says Matt Katz, Senior Tutor at Massey, “Winning this competition in only his second year of university is testament to his hard work and constant practice in the craft of concept design and illustration.”

Also judged by Richard was competition runner-up Tahiwi Hunt from Massey’s College of Creative Arts. With two such strong students from Wellington, it’s good to know the Workshop needn’t look too far to find its next generation of artists and craftspeople.

Richard and Daniel’s trip to South Korea saw them visiting the Gwangmyeong Cave system for the design exhibition and awards ceremony. Originally a coal mine during the Japanese colonial period, the cave reopened its doors in 2011 having undergone a remarkable transformation. This impressive themed space includes light and sound installations, a wine cellar, a golden palace and waterfall, and an impressive stadium set inside an immense natural chamber.

And their most recent addition? A giant dragon designed and manufactured by Weta Workshop. This 36-meter-long serpentine creature towers above the viewing platform and stretches back into the darkness of an arterial cave.

“These caves are filled with incredible treasures and amazing spaces. To have been asked to add to this other-worldly museum is a privilege. When Daniel and I head back to Wellington, this creature will remain as testament to the ongoing collaboration between two countries who advocate creativity and craftsmanship so strongly.”

- Richard Taylor, CEO and Co-founder, Weta Workshop

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