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Crossing Frontiers

Her work shows a maturity that belies her years. Self-taught artist Snejana Mommsen tells us she believes in charting her own course.

Snejana Mommsen likes to create art on a big scale, literally. The painter-sculptor has exhibited her work across Bahrain, most recently at the Al A’ali Art Festival for charity. We have our eyes on this talented teenager as she leaves for Bristol this summer to pursue a bachelor’s degree in animation.

Woman This Month (WTM): Tell us about your love affair with art.
Snejana Mommsen (SM): It started very early since my mum is an accomplished painter. Ever since I could hold a pencil in my hand, I was trying to copy her drawings. I continued to do painfully detailed pencil sketches until my GCSC days in school, when my art teacher took note of my work and suggested I take up acrylic painting.

WTM: Who have been your influences as an artist?
SM: I was deeply influenced by Caravaggio, the 16th Century Italian artist, who often painted scenes from the scriptures with a dramatic use of lighting. I’ve done my own version of The Entombment of Christ and Doubting Thomas in a modern context, with women characters.

There’s this British artist who paints couples, merging bodies in oil and I’ve done my version of that in acrylic. My mum is another influence, though she likes to concentrate on the human form, something I don’t do at all. She tried to nudge me into a more traditional format, but I like to shock people through
my work!

WTM: What has been your approach to the art you create?
SM: I don’t like to be told what to do. I’ve always experimented on my own to develop my unique style. As well as working in oil and acrylic, I also make cartoons and murals these days, and fashion sculptures in clay.

For some time now, I’ve dabbled in face painting; inspired by the show Walking Dead. I started doing party make-up for Halloween. Where professional artists use latex for scary make-up, I’ve improvised my technique, using tissue paper and glue.

WTM: What are your career plans?
SM: I want to make cartoons for a living. I took English and drama for my A levels and I realised that it’s not enough to just make images. You have to make them move and tell stories through them. Stories are what will touch people and impact their hearts and mind. I’m planning to join an animation studio after finishing my degree.

WTM: Besides art, what are your other interests?
SM: My interests are varied, ranging from the sensual to the martial. I’ve been training in salsa for the last three years and I can spend hours on the dance floor without missing a beat. On the other hand, there is muay thai, where we exchange blows in full combat. I have now stopped counting my bruises.

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