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SVA’s Crystal Wai Man Chan Wins First Place in the 2017 Will Barnet Student Show

BFA Fine Arts student Crystal Wai Man Chan took home first place in the Fourth Annual Will Barnet Student Show held by The National Arts Club earlier this month, earning the top prize for an untitled, gestural painting of a muted urban landscape. Chan was nominated by BFA Fine Arts Department Chair Suzanne Anker as one of two students from SVA for the Club’s annual student exhibition; BFA Fine Arts student Tamanna Malik was the College’s other nominee.

Each year the show, named for legendary New York painter and educator Will Barnet, features works of various media by students from The Art Students League, Fashion Institute of Technology, Lehman College (CUNY), New York University, Parsons School of Design, Pratt Institute and SVA. At the opening on April 6, Chan was awarded First Prize, which comprises a $2,500 grant and a solo exhibition at The National Arts Club in 2018. Artists Kyle Saver and Timur York and Club registrar Robert Yahner served as judges.

The National Arts Club, founded in 1898, is a private club that serves as a gathering place for and sponsor of artists, art lovers and patrons. It puts on several public exhibitions a year and many more social events and hosts art classes. The student exhibition including Chan’s work is on view until April 27 at The National Arts Club, 15 Gramercy Park South.

“I have to thank to my teachers for being very supportive of me, and having trust in me,” Chan said, still reeling from her success. “That built my confidence and helped me to better understand [my] art. I'm now more certain about what I want to express using my sensibility and creativity.” Below, she discusses her award-winning work and plans for what’s next.

Tell me a little about the painting. Is it something you had been working on before becoming involved with the competition?

The awarded piece, which is untitled, is one of the paintings I made this semester. They are mostly urbanscapes and focus on the same theme with which I have been working [for a while]—they are about fragments of memories. Nostalgia does not always cleanse the past; a certain kind of sadness remains adrift and violently disturbing. These emotional fragments are pieces that are difficult to put back into shape. Some things are very subtle and quiet, but they remain over time. My painting addresses these sentiments, in order to provoke a psychological response.

How does this piece fit in with the rest of your practice or your studies thus far at SVA? Can you talk a little about your medium and materials?

This painting was done with acrylic on plywood, and one single brush. Actually, it is a new experiment from this semester. I used to paint in oil on canvas, with different sizes of brushes. Somehow this new experiment allows me to paint freely, to forget about rules and be more expressive, as I’ve always wanted to. I pick up new color and mix without cleaning the brush. Applying paint on wood also gives me a stiffer brush stroke, similar to applying charcoal on paper, which is less [springy] than painting on canvas.

What does the prize mean to you? Any specific plans or projects that the prize money will allow for now?

The grant is very helpful for the high living cost here in NYC. I'm also very excited about the solo exhibition at the Club in 2018. That will be my first solo exhibition here in New York. As an international student from Macau, my feelings are quite complex in receiving such an honor. I have been wishing to have a solo exhibition in New York, and here comes this great opportunity.

What are you thinking of doing next, after school this year?

I'm a transfer student and I will only finish my studies by December 2017. After, I will apply for OPT [Optional Practical Training, which allows international students to remain in the U.S. on their student visa for an additional year after graduation] and hope to continue to stay in New York, surrounded by art. I'm also looking forward to artist residency opportunities and potentially applying to graduate school.

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