A CLACKMANNANSHIRE artist's work was the subject matter of the winning presentation at a public speaking competition last night.

The event, ARTiculation (Scotland) 2016, was held at the University of Stirling, where eight S6 pupils gave a range of “rich and diverse” presentations on works of art and artefacts to a judging panel and a public audience.

Matilda Williams, a St Modan's RC High School student who lives in Alloa, gave a gripping presentation about the work of prominent local artist Karen Strang and earned first prize.

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Matilda Williams

In particular, Matilda explored the story behind Karen's painting Départ, part of the artist's first solo exhibition Illuminations.

Matilda told the crowd how the works of the exhibition, which was on display at the university in 2014, were inspired by the life of poet Jean Nicolas Arthur Rimbaud, “essentially a 19th century punk” as she put it.

Rimbaud is known as an anti-establishment artist and a libertine and his works inspired Karen as a rebellious art student.

Her works were based on the few existing portrays and pictures of the poet, Départ was stimulated by Ernest Delahaye's sketch of Rimbaud. The drawing was created in 1875 by the poet's best friend, when they were sitting in a French café. Matilda explained that Rimbaud's head was shaven as a sign of mourning after his younger sister died.

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Ernest Delahaye's sketch

Departure (Départ) by Rimbaud

Enough seen. The vision has been encountered in all skies.

Enough had. Sounds of cities, in the evening, and in sunlight, and always.

Enough known. The stations of life. — O Sounds and Visions!

Departure amid new noise and affection!

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Départ by Karen Strang

She said: “Karen's painting, Départ, is inspired by this doodle. She has built a narrative on top of the original picture in order to understand who this character was.”

Départ is one of the first poems in the collection Illuminations, composed by Rimbaud.

To achieve the final look of the oil painting on canvas, and to differentiate on the palette, Karen used a variety of techniques like sgraffito, scratching paint of the top surface to expose underlying layers.

Matilda continued: “For me, the most striking part of the painting is the lips and the cigarette. Upon investigation, I've discovered that Rimbaud's lips are meant to look like a rosebud.” The smoke also rises in rose-like patterns.

She also highlighted the orange-red hair in the painting, which, with harsh brush strokes, adds to the edgy and punk-like look. The lips, hair, blue eyelids and pink checks are all part of Karen's interpretation of Rimbaud's femininity.

It is known that he was a gay man, but a few, including the artist, believe that he was also a hermaphrodite, based on references in his poems.

Alloa Academy pupil Greta Martyniuk, also a student of Karen who offers private tuition, gave a presentation about the works of Pablo Picasso, in particular about what is known as The Blue Period. Picasso, who was depressed after a friend of his died, was using the colour blue to express his emotions.

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Greta Martyniuk

Talented Greta showcased some of her own works too, and spoke about how she was inspired to put emotions into her works, thanks to the great painter.

Also presenting was Callie Burns of Lornshill Academy, who spoke about fashion designer Alexander McQueen, highlighting that design should be considered art.

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Callie Burns

On the panel was Katrina Brown, director of The Common Guild, who thanked all for attending and told the youngsters that it was hard to choose a winner an said the range of presentation was “rich and diverse”.

ARTiculation was organised in partnership by The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Museum, the Roche Court Educational Trust and the University of Stirling.

It supports the national Arts Award initiative for both Silver and Gold (gaining up to 35 UCAS points), the Duke of Edinburgh Award, UCAS personal statements, and in England has been noted by the A-level moderators as adding accreditation to the practical and written work.

The competition also develops skills individual thinking, observation, research, language, public speaking and presentation skills and was held in Scotland for the second time.