STORY BY Georgina Benison Photos by Marion James –
On Sunday evening the Opera Galleria exhibition spaces came alive with a bustling gathering at the private view of “The Collection 2019”. A superb spread of artworks by forty two students aged 15 – 19, prepared for their A level and GCSE exams was on show to invitees.
Students from the British School Muscat represented many nationalities, creative styles and genres as broad as in any European Art Gallery in the exhibition. There were sculptures, photography, three-dimensional art, abstract, still-life, street scenes and animals, surrealism, impressionism, cubism, Dali-esque interpretations and other forms distributed spatially over four halls in the upmarket Shatti Mall.
The inauguration speech was delivered to the assembled by BSM Principal, Mr Kai Vacher. He quoted Professor Luckin, speaking about, “the importance of growing creative intelligence in students so that they can thrive in the 21st century; a time when artificial intelligence will pose a threat to many established jobs… Machines may never be able to possess the creative and emotional intelligence of which humans are already capable”.
Entering the Galleria from the west entrance, one was greeted with the mature work of Australian A level student, Rogan Simeone, interpreting detailed classical domed architecture and later, Picasso-esque fusions of musical instruments. “My mind doesn’t work in a linear fashion and neither does Art” he explained. From the main entrance one of the highest achievers in the group, Sri Lankan AS level student Alicia De Silva was represented by two huge innovative portraits and a 3-dimensional structure of miniature paintings. Egyptian Ali El-Sharawy provided diverse and fascinating pieces, including a large portrait of a traditional Arab boy with a collage-like texture. He imaginatively created a Doll’s House using a Van Gogh pastiche and tiny model furniture. Also from Egypt, Maryam Ibrahim produced interesting interpretations of pomegranates and corn cobs in vibrant bright colours. Lush with colour and eye-catching detail were the two large canvases presented by Year 11 student Maisa Zaafira of an Orang-utan and magnified king prawns from her native Indonesia.
In the upstairs gallery Russian artist Vlada Moiseenkova displayed life drawing from an unusual feet-first perspective, experimenting by putting realism and abstraction together with superb technical quality. Beside her frames were two by Romania’s Oana-Maria Fenesan. Her impressionist oil paintings have a watery, fluid quality. She also had studies of an Omani street scene, showing incredible attention to detail in mixed media. Opposite these were two students from Ireland in contrasting styles. Crea Butlin’s two street scenes in oils were almost impressionistic. Her use of colour and shadow were astounding, and the texture of oil on canvas evocative. Rhiannon Callaghan’s brusque statements and expressions of vulnerable people were starkly arresting. Similarly, UK’s Phoebe Baker showed new perspectives of eating and the human form through her excellent techniques in water colour, while Darcy Hunter reflected a Warhol grasp of colour, caricature and illustration.
Spanish designer, Claudia Malallah expressed her thoughts about the world using the medium of collage in her eclectic collection of people through visual superimposition.
Photography students also excelled in their inspired compositions of subjects, familiar and unfamiliar. Denmark’s Monica Olsen is proud of the colour schemes used in her work and the freedom Art gives her to express herself. Evie Kenna’s creative skills were used in editing her photos to create clever optical effects. Yemeni artist Wafa Abohelal was not afraid to take risks in her oil paintings focusing on exposed eyelids – to shock or transfix.
There were too many fine artists to mention all, but Head of Art and Design at BSM, Alexandra McHenry must be extraordinarily proud of the achievements these young people under her guidance, created together with her team, Dr Hayley Anne Myhill and Sandra Rayner. One hopes that many visitors will be able to appreciate this display of artwork before it closes. The exhibition will be open to the public at the Opera Galleria from 10am until 10pm until Thursday 20th June.