Preview: Collective to exhibit Evolution at Pie Factory Gallery in Margate

Evolution by Pari Aazami, GeGe Hirst, Sarah Lake and Richard Poole

By art columnist Carol Cordrey

A collective of four artists will display their work at Pie Factory Gallery in Margate in June and July.

“Evolution” will share the works of Kent artists Pari Aazami, GeGe Hirst, Sarah Lake and Richard Poole whose distinctive artworks have rapidly placed them under the spotlights of UK and international art galleries.  Their success is even more impressive when considered against their life-changing decisions to become artists after stepping  back  from other, decade-long roles.

GeGe Hirst retained her passion for fine art throughout her career as an architect then two years ago, that passion strengthened its grip after GeGe’s sudden success with an exhibition of her abstract works. Bolstered by her skills with both representational and abstracted painting techniques, she made up her mind to pursue a new career as an artist. A fusion of both techniques is evident in this exciting, new group of works which features highly emotive faces that bring a fresh, 21st century look to the conventional genre of portraiture.

GeGe’s faces are not created as depictions of recognisable people; they are enigmatic, multi-faceted characters painted with great competence and confidence. Unlike traditional portraiture, her subjects have no attributes to identify them and they emerge from undefined spaces as if bursting out of the canvas to attract attention. And demand our attention they do!

GeGe achieves that through distinctive elements such as her use of unexpected colours applied in a manner ranging from the fine and soft to the broad and energetic; the crisp anatomical details where full lips are often depicted slightly apart as if engaged in conversation with the viewer; and the most striking eyes! Leonardo da Vinci is credited with the statement, “The eyes are the windows of the soul” and GeGe paints them so sensitively that they compel us to stop and look into them…to think about and connect with the subject’s emotions and characteristics that the eyes are undoubtedly revealing  – determined, suspicious, powerful, contemplative, liberated…to name but a few.

In contrast, this exhibition will present equally impressive work by Pari Aazami. Photography and fine art were lifelong, background interests throughout her career as a dentist but now in retirement, Pari relishes using mixed-media to transform ordinary subjects in nature into extraordinary, abstracted versions of the world around us.

Her skills in working on a very small scale in dentistry have been adapted to excellent effect here.  Evidence of it begins with the close-up photographs that Pari takes of tree bark and later enlarges before combining with portions of delicate metal leaf in varied colours. Once framed, we initially enjoy these as beautiful, detailed abstract works of art but their complexity holds our gaze and invites us to look beyond the surface until we realise that that there is more to Pari’s work than meets the eye: Those beguiling, irregular patterns…the carefully applied highlights of sparkling coloured metal that play with the light and shade effects.

In fact, the disparate, multi-layers are Pari’s metaphor for the multi-layered world we live in so I was not surprised to learn that her work has been sought after in exhibitions around the UK, in Switzerland and in some of London’s renowned locations, such as Mall Galleries and The Brick Lane Gallery. One clever client – Chilworth Manor Vineyard – was so impressed by Pari’s compositions and their tree bark origins that it chose one to be the backdrop to its 2017 Brut advertisement.

A three-dimensional treat brought to this exhibition will be the ceramics by Richard Poole, his beautiful, stylish pieces having evolved from a simple day’s course at Aylesford Pottery in 2020.  The passion for this art form grew and grew until it came to dominate all his time when not working in software engineering.  Richard describes his ceramics as decorative and reflecting the great, late Lloyd Wright’s mantra, form over function. In my view, Richard’s work gives us the best of everything – elegant, contemporary forms but some with practical functions, such as his narrow necked vases.

Richard’s talent extends beyond creating stunning shapes; they acquire a fascination  because of the way he employs space or cut-outs, also texture which adds drama to the otherwise richly glazed areas.  This artist has a good eye for colouring, too as it is obviously chosen sensitively in relation to the degree of decoration and subsequent elegant effect he wants to achieve.  Best of all, his work is bound to enhance either modern or old environments, domestic or commercial so his appeal is truly great, confirmed by his success at the recent Bluewater exhibition and invitations already  flowing in to exhibit elsewhere.

Sarah Lake’s life demonstrates how to make a career from a home hobby that, in her case, was rooted in a love of wildlife.  In fact, not just a new career but a success that is recognised internationally. In 2021 Sarah took a leap of faith by entering and winning Sketch for Survival and with emboldened confidence she entered more competitions. Even more impressive is the fact that she is self-taught, like the late David Shepherd CBE who would have been the first to congratulate her on being a category winner in 2023 in his eponymous and international Wildlife Artist of the Year competition.  Sarah’s other global competition wins have included Sketch for Survival and Art & Color 365.

All this success from an artist who has personally evolved a meticulous art form that primarily uses photography, glue and a scalpel and the results are amazing!  A computer separates her photographs – usually of wildlife – into delicate layers. Those are printed onto hammered paper in readiness for her equally amazing drawing skills that edit areas or add highlights.  Adroit handling of a scalpel creates cut-outs of each layer which are then glued onto the next layer until she is satisfied with the assembled, detailed image. Each unique image grows from a single photograph and it is only when viewers look very closely that they spot the layering and realise that they are seeing art that is far greater than the sum of its parts.

The location for the exhibition is Pie Factory, Margate, an especially fitting choice because like these artists, it underwent an evolution in recent times.  Having been originally a butcher’s shop then a book warehouse, the Pie Factory has undergone a transformation into a modern exhibition and events venue.

Evolution is at Pie Factory Gallery in Broad Street from 26 June – 2 July

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