Review: Under the Mask – OAM

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The Oxford Art Movement’s (OAM) exhibition UNDER THE MASK has been running this week in the Blue Boar room in Christchurch, and if its opening night last Friday is anything to go by, it looks like it will prove to be quite a success. The work placed on display was as high in quality as it was varied in style, making for a space filled with efforts that were rewarding to both the casual observer and the refined eye. So overwhelming was the turnout that the bar staff had quite an evening of it trying to top up with free wine the glasses of all who paid the £2 entry fee.

There was an interesting sculpture piece of steel mesh, with expansion foam and balloons squeezing through the gaps, explained by the artist as being representative of the way in which the inflexible self influences natural growth and shapes development. However, much of the exhibition examined not the effect a mask can be said to have on the self, but rather the role it can play as cover, and what one may look like without it. Portraits, then, were very much the order of the day, and a large biro drawing of a Rastafarian expelling a screen of tobacco smoke was one of the most charismatic pieces in the room.

A self-portrait caught my eye, and my interest increased as I observed its artist posing nearby, waiting for someone to notice him. Frustrated, he eventually stepped forward and made himself known to the viewers, who expressed relief at the revelation after having been nervously trying to work out what he had been attempting to achieve by nodding at the picture while at the same time pointing to himself, and smiling with a somewhat unnerving friendliness at the group of people clustered around what was eventually discovered to be his artwork. An entertaining vignette played out in which brave attempts were made to congratulate the artist on his work, while at the same time deftly skirting the fact that it clearly bore far less of a resemblance to its subject than had been intended.

There were also the odd musical performances throughout the evening, and visitors were treated to the dulcet tones of John Brazier and Thea Dickenson. Despite the unexpectedly large influx of visitors, the tone of the whole event remained relaxed and casual, and full credit should go to its organisers.

The OAM’s next exhibition will be a festival taking place next term at the Union, and, unlike the one at Christchurch, will be running all day in order to provide as wide a window of time as possible for time-restricted students preparing themselves for exams.

To know more about either the OAM itself or future events, contact OAM’s President, Marie-Claire Steven at marie-claire.steven@new.ox.ac.uk.

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