Elysia Su / The Chronicle

Sophomore Alex Lark has the sort of quiet enthusiasm and understated passion that’s encouraging for an interviewer and lends credibility to what he says. When I asked him to tell me about himself, he answered both concretely and abstractly: “I’m from Melbourne, Australia, born and raised on a really beautiful coastal suburb there. I’ve always had a huge appreciation for moving bodies of water. I know I want to live by the ocean.”

Alex continually surprised me throughout our conversation. He likes to weave himself through several genres – film, music, drawing, photography, graphic design and so on. Half-serious and half-tongue-in-cheek, he explains, “I’ve been shifting across and tasting snippets. Like tiny hor d’oeuvres in this banquet that is art, and I’m sitting in each seat and getting a taste of it because I want to have that breadth of experience. I want to know where other artists come from.”

That same craving for experience led Alex to Duke, in the hopes of balancing “academic pursuit as well as life pursuit.” I asked him, a visual arts, English and Arts of the Moving Image student, what he was thinking career-wise. “Art has to be in some aspect of my life and career,” he said. “I want to produce art and work as a creative director, in any industry. Potentially I could grow my own company. That would be great if I could find people that have similar tastes in aesthetics and grow into a team.”

When I asked Alex whether he had any sort of team or was involved with any organizations on campus, he offhandedly—but appreciatively—mentioned DiDA and Freewater. For his personal projects, however, he has yet to find a collaborative fit on campus.

“I see things very distinctly in my head before I shoot. I didn’t realize that not everyone sees things this way, so I’m trying to convey this unique perspective. It means you have to be behind the camera.” He continues, “It’s so strange sometimes, how others see it. I’m sure there’s a team out there that would be perfect for me. I just haven’t found that group of people.”

Until then, Alex works alone. He directed, wrote, produced and edited “Underpass,” a final project in a film production class. “I had that class at night, in Smith Warehouse,” he explained. “Every time I walked back to East I would walk below the underpass, the graffitied wall area. After a couple weeks I realized that there was a distinct feeling someone gets in that space. I wanted to make a film about, primarily, this feeling, but also incorporate other aspects of a narrative and little chunks of my life, which you can’t help when you create a piece of art.”

The film earned Alex the 2012 Hal Kammerer Memorial Prize for Film and Video Production. Although there’s often something trite about amateur shorts with serious topics, “Underpass” comes across as subtle and thought-provoking. Each element feels intentional, and with only one location, three actors and a soundperson, Alex was able to craft the short he had envisioned.

After Alex’s first year, he traveled “with some friends on a road trip along the west coast of the U.S., up to Yosemite, and back,” before setting off on a brief stint across Europe. “15 Hundred Miles” is a nostalgic West Coast montage, interposing those on the journey with vibrant and scenic time-lapses.

“I love capturing beauty. We saw so many incredible things on this trip. We ended up with all this footage and some photography that I had done while we were in the backcountry of Yosemite, so I put together this first-person, feel-good film.”

Both films are featured on Alex’s simple but sophisticated website. Alex Lark Studios touts work done for previous clients, as well as charming animations, piano compositions, 2D art and design.

I decided to close with a question that I could have started with. “Why art?”

Alex rubbed his hands together and laughed, continuing in a way that made me feel like he’d often been asked, “Why are you studying art?” versus my “What is art to you?”

“It’s easy to pop the ‘why’ question. Why are you doing this at Duke? It’s the notion of these different types of intelligences. There’s an emotional, creative intelligence in art, and in this environment, it’s sometimes stifled. But I’ve been forceful enough to push back, to open people’s eyes to it. It’s just what I love doing. It’s what I found myself doing in my spare time. My spare time became the same as my time on-task.”

Alex’s works can be found here.