Accompanied by two talented students, the Weta Workshop crew are back from a week of fantastical creativity: the Gwangmyeong Concept Design Symposium in South Korea! This trip is the culmination of the annual Gwangmyeong Concept Design Competition (GCDC). Now in its fourth year, the GCDC asks the best emerging design talent in New Zealand and South Korea to put their imagination to the test.

This year was no exception. The brief called upon entrants to imagine a New Zealand city of 2040, and the extra-terrestrial inhabitants who might share it with us - coaxing extraordinary entries from all over New Zealand.

From a pool of wildly inventive, thought-provoking, and beautiful artwork, the winners were chosen: grand prize winner, Chenhao Zhuang; runner-up LiWen Choy; and second runner-up, Ziyi Zheng - all students from Auckland University! Along with generous prizes from Wacom for all three, Chenhao and LiWen had the opportunity to travel to the Symposium with Weta Workshop co-founder Richard Taylor and senior concept designer Daniel Falconer, to soak up the creativity of their peers in South Korea.

Says Richard: “Hi to everyone who has submitted their designs into our GCDC in the past and anyone intending to submit in the near future.

I have just returned from this year’s competition in Gwangmyeong where I had the great pleasure of hosting LiWen and Chenhao (the two winners of the NZ section of the 2017 GCDC). They accompanied me and my colleague Daniel Falconer to South Korea where they participated in the week-long lectures and creative interaction while filling their evenings being hosted by the most incredibly gracious and lovely Korean hospitality one could imagine. I think their words in the following commentary speak volumes of what they got out of this trip.

I pass on my thanks to them for representing NZ designers so well while away in Korea at this wonderful event.

I hope many of you will submit new work next year or join this competition for the first time.

Cheers to you all,

Richard.”

For winner Chenhao Zhuang (winning artwork pictured above), who is studying Fine Arts and submitted a whopping three (!) entries, the experience was transformative.

“I am so honoured and grateful to have the opportunity to accompany Richard Taylor, Daniel Falconer, and LiWen Choy in this amazing trip. It is not only the most incredible journey I’ve experienced, but also a life changing one".

Chenhao went on to say:
"Meeting up and talking with the professionals and Korean contestants was the most precious experience. Though we use different languages, we are still able to communicate so well because of our common interest and enthusiasm for fantasy and art. We could talk days and nights with each other because of this. I’ve never had these conversations before, since I know no one around me who’s also dreaming to become a concept artist and desperate to express their crazy fantastical mind through art like the people there. Getting in touch with the artists in Korea and Daniel and LiWen, hearing their stories and advice has really changed my life.

The hosts and locals there were extremely friendly and generous to us, which I think is why the trip was so enjoyable. For the whole week, they found the best food, amazing attractions and locations for us to enjoy. Experiencing Chimaek (chicken and beer) beside Han River at night, wandering through Korea’s largest toy market, I was amazed by all the breath-taking designs in Dongdaemun Design Plaza.

I could write pages and pages about these fun moments. Kings dinner inside Gyeongbokgung palace, Gwangmyeong Cave restaurant, tour in YG studio, they also gave us the chance to experience these events that probably even the locals couldn’t experience in their lives and I can’t thank them enough for painstakingly arranging this extraordinary journey for us.

Ultimately, I want to thank Weta Workshop and Film Alchemy for making this all happen by creating the competition. I believe all young artists dream of becoming a concept artist in New Zealand and Korea and I am very grateful for having been given this great opportunity. I hope the Gwangmyeong Conceptual Design Competition gets better and better every year and I wish everyone good luck for next year.

Dreams do come true.”

GCDC third runner-up in 2016, LiWen Choy (whose winning artwork is pictured above) relished the chance to head back to Korea with Chenhao and the Weta Workshop crew.

“It is to my greatest bemusement that the shortest moments in one’s life are the ones that leave the deepest impression. In September 2017, one week at the GCDC Symposium in the Korean city of Gwangmyeong has irreversibly made its mark on my creative life."

"I had the pleasure of attending," says LiWen, "a series of Concept Design lectures with designer and writer of Weta Workshop, Daniel Falconer, alongside my talented companion Chenhao Zhuang. From designing creatures and props of award-winning feature films The Lord of The Rings and District 9, to receiving invaluable critiques of our own design work, the GCDC Symposium is something every aspiring Concept Designer should aim to be part of.

But equally as valuable, amongst the sight-seeing and classroom sessions, are the relationships I have made with individuals as passionate about design as I am, who have reminded me that creativity is not a collectible resource but a collective community, which permeates across the globe, regardless of origin. The words I have exchanged with my friends at the GCDC are what I will remember for many years.

I would like to thank Sir Richard Taylor and all the organisers of this event for making this experience possible for me, and I sincerely desire all future participants to view the GCDC as an un-regrettable, once in a life time opportunity.”

Wonderful words from two of New Zealand's best and brightest budding concept designers! Weta Workshop would like to thank all of this year’s entrants and everyone involved in putting the competition together between our two countries – may next year be even bigger and better!

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