Ideas for Abstraction: A Top in the World International GCSE Art Exam

Last Updated on April 2, 2023

Those who are looking for ideas for their IGCSE or GCSE Art exam are likely to benefit immensely from analysing the artwork of talented Year 11 student Tarika Sabherwal from ACG Strathallan College, Auckland, New Zealand. Along with another IGCSE student in her class, Tarika achieved 100% for her recent IGCSE Art exam (Controlled Test, CIE 0400) and was awarded Top in the World for the October 2011 examination session. Responding to the question, ‘A bunch of keys’, Tarika’s project (see below) demonstrates how initial observational drawings, used in conjunction with appropriate artist models, can lead students through an exciting aesthetic investigation that results in highly original semi-abstract work.

The perfect exam topic

Many students who visit the Student Art Guide get caught up in the hunt for the ‘perfect’ exam topic. Tarika’s work reminds us that sometimes the best approach is simply to begin: to throw yourself into your work and explore the richness  inherent in a scene or object itself, without seeking an unduly complex or arbitrary meaning.

realism to abstraction
From realism to abstraction: two images showing the journey Tarika has undergone in her IGCSE Art exam preparation.

Realism to abstraction

Tarika follows the process from realism to abstraction that she has refined in her Coursework project, using artist models that she has previously studied in depth. This approach of re-using artist models is one that is popular within New Zealand students and teachers and is an approach that can be used with great success.

As the preparatory period for the examination is much shorter than the time frame for the Coursework project, drawing influence from artists that have been studied within a preceding Coursework project allows students to work much more quickly and confidently within the examination period. Contrary to fears, this approach does not result in work that is contrived or repetitive. As the underlying imagery and ideas are based on an entirely different subject – and thus visually quite different – students approach their exam project with enthusiasm, creating original and exciting outcomes, as in Tarika’s project below.

In this way, the Coursework acts as revision for the examination, giving students a superb grounding from which to move forward.

International GCSE Art exam: 100%

GCSE art exam A*
A thorough and comprehensive International GCSE Art exam by Tarika Sabherwal based on the still life topic: ‘A bunch of keys’. This work was awarded Top in the World.

The video below shows additional close ups and details of Tarika’s IGCSE Art exam. With an almost ‘glowing’ aesthetic, Tarika’s mixed-media pieces, which are based on fragmented, de-constructed images of keys, suggest hidden secrets, locked layers and memories intertwined. Beautiful.

If you enjoyed this article, you may wish to also view Tarika’s 100% IGCSE Coursework project.


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