In pursuit of true beauty

Lantian D used her entire life savings to pursue her dream of painting. Now, just one year later, this self-taught artist and UTS alumna has captured the attention of the London art establishment with her work shortlisted for the prestigious BP Portrait Award.

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Following a strict and traditional education in China, complete with seven private tutors, Lantian successfully completed an undergraduate degree in commerce to satisfy her parents' wishes. Yet, she longed to find a creative outlet for her artistic abilities.

In 2008 Lantian embarked on a Masters of Media Arts and Production (MMAP) at UTS. It was an eye-opening experience.

"There were good teachers there to guide me, but I had to make the entire film myself––from screenwriting, directing, producing, shooting, lighting, art directing and editing. I had to do it all and in just one and an half years," she explains.

Lantian faced the challenge head-on, immersing herself in the course and the creative process. Her determination was rewarded with high academic results and, most importantly, the confidence and self-belief to begin painting and drawing.

To learn more about the art world, she worked at galleries in both Sydney and London. She also started to paint and explore art history and the contemporary art scene, a scene she quickly discovered was not for her. She found many of the works radical, confronting, and, in her opinion, created solely for the purpose of destruction and self-exposure. Lantian was instead inspired by the traditional 'old art' of the pre-postmodern period.

Like many artists, she found the balance between the pursuit of creativity and the financial demands of the 'real world' a challenge. But in 2013 Lantian knew her aspirations were still not being satisfied. She made the bold decision to put her life as she knew it on hold and paint full time until her savings ran out.

This decision paid off with three of her portraits of passengers on the London tube recently shortlisted in London's prestigious BP Portrait Award. The annual Awards recognise 55 of the most outstanding and innovative new portraits from around the world. In addition, two of Lantian's most recent works have been pre-selected for another major figurative art prize in the UK - the Threadneedle Prize. Not bad for someone who started painting just one year earlier.

Lantian's work is inspired by the Old Masters of the art world and explores the age-old question of true beauty. Her winning works are currently on display throughout the UK, including the esteemed National Portrait Gallery in London.

Lantian admits it is challenging to be an artist in a world which emphasises self-promotion and marketing. However, she credits her time at UTS with giving her the confidence and self-belief to embark on and complete new projects. Her advice to current students is simple - find out what you truly want in life as early as possible and then pursue it wholeheartedly. This approach has certainly paid off handsomely in Lantian's own life.

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