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Meet the UAL Finland Alumni Group leaders

Written by Eleanor Harvey
Published date 05 April 2019

Elena Comincioli and Abdullah Qureshi have set up an alumni group in Finland. Elena studied MA Design Studies at Central Saint Martins (CSM), graduating in 2009, and Abdullah studied at Chelsea from his Foundation course through to his MA Fine Art, when he graduated in 2011. We spoke to them about why they’ve joined up to start the group, what activities they have planned, and how you can get involved.

A black and white photo of Elena
Elena Comincioli

Elena Comincioli:

What made you choose to study in London, and at Central Saint Martins in particular?
Central Saint Martins is the place where I found the perfect master course for me. Back then, in 2008, I had just ended my BA in product design in Italy, and I decided I wanted to focus more on the design processes and methods, rather than just on the final outcome. The MA Design Studies (later renamed as MA Applied Imagination), run by Geoff Crook, was exactly what I was looking for. As I started to live every day at CSM, London came as a very happy consequence, I would say!

What do you do now?
I am pursuing my PhD at Aalto University in Helsinki, Finland, and I am also a member of the Swiss Doctoral School in Affective Sciences at the University of Geneva. Funnily enough, as I came back to university after 8 years working all around the world, I found myself investigating some of the topics I started exploring at CSM in 2008! The focus of my research today are design processes and methods as well as the role of emotions when we design services for older adults.

What is your proudest achievement so far?
My proudest achievement is that I was able to open a strategic design agency, run it for 4 years developing projects in Europe and Asia, and finally close it without arguing with the other partners. One of the first things I was told by our professors at CSM was that understanding when to quit a project is at the same time the hardest and the most important thing if you want to keep advancing in your professional life.

What do you like most about being part of the UAL Alumni community?
It is an extraordinary community. Wherever in the world, you happen to be, you always find someone who shares a similar experience and mindset and is happy to welcome you to a new city. To me, the UAL Alumni Community look almost like an extended family based on the values of creativity and diversity.

Why have you set up the Finland Alumni Group?
In fact, it was something very spontaneous and very little planned. Me and Abdullah (the other founder) ran into each other in Helsinki at Aalto University. We immediately clicked and wondered who else was "out there" from UAL: this is how we started the Alumni group!

What do you hope the Finnish Alumni community will achieve?
I hope we will be able to gather more and more people, spread our values, and support each other as we share ideas, contacts, and projects!

What do you have planned for the group?
Once a month we organize a gathering, we go to visit an exhibition or attend a concert and then have a drink together. We have a very laid-back, casual approach. Recently, the British consulate in Helsinki invited us to a guided tour of David Hockney's wonderful exhibition. If you happen to be in Finland, shoot us an email!

Abdullah with a hat on, covering his face with a piece of material
Abdullah Qureshi, courtesy of Hammas Wali

Abdullah Qureshi:

What made you choose to study in London, and at Chelsea College of Arts in particular?
It's a slightly funny story. I was on holiday in London with friends and decided to check out different universities. During my trip to Chelsea, I saw an artwork in the parade ground. It was mad, and I remember thinking to myself that if someone could do that, then I could do whatever I want! So, I chose Chelsea and did many mad things too.

What do you do now?
I am a visual artist and doctoral candidate at Aalto University in Finland. Within my practice, I primarily use painting to address personal histories, traumatic pasts, and childhood memories. And through my research, I am interested in expanding ideas of queerness, sexuality, and masculinity from a Muslim perspective. You can view my recent work on www.abdullahqureshi.org.

What is your proudest achievement so far?
My proudest achievement so far would have to be a scholarship I started a couple of years ago in memory of my late grandfather, Shamim Sarfraz (1931 - 2017). Shameem Sarfraz Scholarship for Cultural Studies is an annual award supporting one needs-based student pursuing MPhil Cultural Studies (Two-year programme) at the National College of Arts (NCA), Lahore. In 2018, Hina Aziz became the 1st recipient of the Shameem Sarfraz Scholarship for Cultural Studies. This year, the scholarship recipient is Noor Ul Ain Khawaja.

What do you like most about being part of the UAL Alumni community?
What I've always loved about the UAL community is how diverse it is, and a place where people from all over the world working in the arts come together.

Why have you set up the Finland Alumni Group?
Having moved to Finland two years ago, both, Elena and I bonded over the fact that we had previously studied at UAL. Seeing that there was no existing UAL alumni group in Finland, we felt it would be a great way to reach out and connect with others from our alma mater.

What do you hope the Finnish Alumni community will achieve?
Even though we have all met a few times so far, it is clear that there is a vibrant UAL community in Finland. Through more regular meetings, we hope to grow our group, and possibly even explore collaborative projects.

What do you have planned for the group?
As we have recently formed the group, we are still very much in the early phases of building this community. At the moment, we meet once a month over drinks or exhibitions/concerts. As our group grows, we hope to explore more activities as well.

How to get involved:

Join the group on Facebook to keep up to date with all their news and activities.

Find out more about our other International Alumni Groups and Associations.