Place among greats

BIG BREAK: Soraya Beheshti, 17, has been accepted for an internship at the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, Russia.
BIG BREAK: Soraya Beheshti, 17, has been accepted for an internship at the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, Russia.

A young artist is hoping to make her mark while interning at one of the world's great galleries.

K' Rd resident Soraya Beheshti has been accepted as an intern at the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, Russia where she will be doing everything from sketching restored artifacts to research.

The 17-year-old had little more than her artwork and determination to back up her application prior to graduating from King's College last year.

"It was quite lengthy and complicated, but I wanted to do it and I wanted to do it on my own," she says.

"It really amazes me that I was accepted. I will probably be the youngest there, and the least qualified, but I hope to make up for that with a little bit of elbow grease."

The museum is one of the largest in the world and is home to major collections of Italian Renaissance and French Impressionist paintings, as well as a large number of works by Rembrandt.

Ms Beheshti's internship starts in August and runs until January next year.

Rubbing shoulders with the art history scholars and professionals of the famed museum will be a highlight, she says.

"Even the thought of going to work every day with paintings that have inspired me - the greats whom I look up to - is just too much.

"I am so blessed to have this incredible opportunity."

Her Iranian roots and her father, film-maker Faramarz Beheshti, have been a huge influence on her work and aspirations, she says.

"The women in Dad's film are a huge inspiration to my paintings. They accept their fate and get on with their lives. They are so strong and together, but not devoid of hope, they soldier on."

The museum internship co-ordinators were particularly struck by Ms Beheshti's series of self-portraits inspired by the idea of oppression. In them she depicts herself as being restrained by ropes, chains and words.

"I am half-Iranian so the oppression of women by the government - not the culture or religion - is an issue I feel very strongly about."

The Dubai-born artist moved with her family to Hawke's Bay when she was 8-years-old before shifting back at the age of 14 then settling in Auckland two years later.

She is staying in Dubai ahead of the internship and is helping to fund her gap year by taking commissions for paintings.

"If it were up to me, all my art would be inspired by something great or horrible," she says.

"I find myself utterly unmotivated when painting meaningless portraits or landscapes, whereas I am totally enthralled when painting political pieces."

Her former art teacher, King's College head of visual art and design Chas Foxall, says Ms Beheshti's's acceptance is remarkable.

"Soraya is one of those students who has a global approach to her learning, she speaks three languages and her work is mature beyond her years," he says.

Auckland City Harbour News