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Heidi Andreasen (in collaboration with Tristram Ma
Heidi Andreasen (in collaboration with Tristram Mason)

Danny Sangra on Central St Martins Graphic Design Expo

The illustrator and CSM alumni reports back from the art college's new Kings X building and highlights this year's top talent

The first thing on my mind was the new building. It's hard not to talk about it, especially for an ex-student. It's impressive – its scale is immense. However, on first impressions it felt like walking into a Westfield shopping centre, and I couldn't help but feel detached from my history with St Martins. I just had no initial connection to the place.

When I walked around the design show I was immediately struck by the quality of the work. The general mood of the school seemed lifted. Perhaps it was the vast new space or just the optimism of art students, blissfully unaware of how they will have juggle their values and rent money for years to come. Either way, it was a positive feeling.

Christian Schmeer's dark city-landscape photography was the first work to catch my eye, while the work of C. Chen Barbachan stood out from the majority of the portraits in the photography section.

The more film-inspired students created a blend of all areas, mixing moving images with animation and narrative. You could tell that these were designers making films, rather than filmmakers making films. Jo Baaklini's particular mix of illustration and film seemed well-developed and visually exciting, while moving image pieces by Sara Kyurkchieva and Mengqin Shen also showed an eclectic use of mixed media and strange narrative.

Students displayed personal work but with an understanding that it will soon become a product and a means to eat and fund further work. This was the reason why my graduating year opened three shops in central London to sell off our final work Instead of having a show.

Heidi Andreasen had created 3D layered-collages that worked well while on display to the public but wouldn't maybe work as well in print. You could already see new techniques beginning to develop and her general enthusiasm was infectious.

Jamie Coe is an all-out illustrator. His graphic-novel work showed the patience it takes to make something people actually want to read. Lerayne Lam had a technical level that surpassed many mature artists, let alone other students. It will be interesting to see her take on new and unfamiliar subject matter.

Overall, the work displayed a usual multitude of techniques. I was expecting more of the typical useless art-school final-projects, e.g. the bloody tampon glued to a mirror, or a monitor showing hitler saluting on a loop. There was surprising little of that (even in the fine-art section).

I finally felt the connection to my old school when I realised that, despite the behemoth of a building, the way a St Martins student approaches their work remains the same. The ability to self-initiate projects after leaving college is on of their defining characteristics.

The building may have changed but the direction hasn't…

Text by Danny Sangra