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A selection of entries for the SUR in English schoolwork competition.

Brimming over with talent

  • Students at international schools in southern Spain once again impress the judges in the SUR in English Education and Learning competition

SUR in English’s panel of judges faced another difficult task earlier this month when it came to selecting work by students for publication in this special Education and Learning supplement. This year ten schools from Añoreta to Sotogrande answered this newspaper’s call to submit work by primary and secondary pupils in three categories: art, poetry and written reviews.

Winners in each category, as well as runners-up and others deserving of a special mention, were selected by a panel of judges formed by artist George Kowzan, poet and translator, Álvaro García, former editor of SUR in English, Liz Parry, and the newspaper’s current editor Rachel Haynes.

In the art section, Kowzan, whose murals are now decorating numerous walls around Malaga, stressed the high standard of the work submitted, making the judging very difficult. “I had eight on my shortlist to get down to three,” he said, referring to the secondary works.

Poet Álvaro García, who has translated poetry by writers such as Edward Lear, T. S. Eliot, W. H. Auden, Philip Larkin, Kenneth White, D. M. Thomas and Margaret Atwood into Spanish, as well as publishing his own work, commented that as in previous years, he was especially impressed by the primary poems.

“The poems by the younger children are the best,” he said, adding that as children turn into young adults, their poetry loses some of its innocence.

As in the previous year, the budding poets were asked to based their writing on two nouns, one abstract and one concrete.

Writers were asked this year to send in a review of a book, film or play. Liz Parry pointed out that what she looked for in a review was “engaging critical assessment rather than mere summary of the plot”, with enough information to let readers decide whether or not they want to read the book or watch the film and of course with “no spoilers”.

Winning primary artwork.

Winning primary artwork. / Luis Denis González de Vega, age 10, Sunny View School.

Artwork winners

Despite the incredibly high standard, the judges chose Luis Denis González de Vega (aged 10, Sunny View School) as the primary winner for artwork. George Kowzan referred to this as a fauvist landscape. “Just joyous” were the words he used to describe how the painting made him feel. “It lifts your spirits,” he added. “These are really, really strong colours. It is well composed, with purple and blue in the background, sending the colours off into the distance but then you’ve got this lovely orange sky”.

“I’d have that on my wall,” he concluded.

The judges did not know whether the student had been learning about fauvist art or whether his choice of colour was coincidental with the style.

George explained how fauvist art was a movement at the same time as impressionism. “They were called the wild beasts,” he said, adding that the paintings were identified by the super bright, bold colours. "They’re unnatural colours that show you are painting with the soul as well.”

As for the winning secondary entry, by Loreto Villegas (age 14, Sotogrande International School), he said: "There’s a great feeling of hardship and struggle here."

Winning secondary artwork.

Winning secondary artwork. / Loreto Villegas, age 14, Sotogrande International School.

“You’ve got the bent backs of the people struggling with their meagre possessions. The black and white makes it even more powerful - there’s no joy, no colour.

“The last child figure shows total despair - the bending of the back and the positioning of the eye. The child’s on the verge of giving up, ready to drop.

“It’s very, very evocative; an extremely powerful piece of work. I loved it,” said the artist.

George discussed the technique used, lino cut. The white marks have been gouged out of the linoleum. “You can see the marks of the tool,” he said.

The judges discussed how the painting depicted the struggle of refugees fleeing from any of the crises, past or present, in the world.