Ms Kayleigh Paige Gemmell graduated summa cum laude with honours in bachelor of arts at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) for research that looked into notions of hyperrealism, a concept that is actively explored through the animated medium and championed by animation industries such as Walt Disney Studios.
Gemmell, in particular, looked at the ways in which different hyperrealities were constructed within the animated medium and how other animation industries have adopted and altered this technique while engaging broadly on notions of feminism, environmental decay, the conceptual or psychological basis of ‘cartoons’ and the capabilities of the animated medium.
She hopes that her research will benefit the society of academic digital artists someday. ‘My research sheds light on aspects of animation that can be considered both academic and non-academic, as animation is often regarded as a lesser form of entertainment. I have showed that it has the potential to explore deeper, highly conceptual subject matter that is able to transcend boundaries such as culture, race or gender, to name a few.
‘I hope other students and researchers would be able to use my work to explore their passions and challenge socially and societally accepted opinions,’ said Gemmell.
Finances initially were a challenge but through hard work and academic excellence, she was awarded a UKZN scholarship to complete her postgraduate degree. ‘This obstacle became a motivating factor, pushing me to work incredibly hard and achieve better.’
A favourite part of Gemmell’s research dissertation was critically engaging with various case studies and generating academic, well-informed work on a particular topic, one where subjective opinions could be shared.
She thanked her family, friends and supervisor, Dr Michelle Stewart for always being helpful, considerate and supportive.
‘My family and friends have always been supportive of me, from both within and outside of the artistic process. They gave me the necessary space to produce my practical work, to putting up with the late night conversations, cancelled plans in the name of work, copious amounts of art materials brought on holidays, sitting through screenings, proof-reading dissertations and assembling overly-complex exhibitions. They really have been my kindest (and toughest) critics and ‘number one’ fans through thick and thin.’
Gemmell is currently a masters student in digital art and is in the process of producing her masters thesis. Her advice to other students; ‘You cannot rely on talent alone, because hard work trumps talent in the long run.’