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Evocative by Aziza Essa

Gregson Centre, Lancaster
From Thursday 4 November 2003

Second opportunity
Following the success of her recent show at The Dukes' Gallery local artist Aziza Essa has been busy painting, and some of her creations are now on show at The Gregson. This collection of seven pieces reflects Aziza's attitude to the creative process, and throws new light on her approach to her work.

Volcanic Rush by Aziza Essa (Phototaken by John BurkinshawPerhaps the most striking piece, to this viewer's eyes and mind at least, is Volcanic Rush, a dramatic study in vivid hues of purple which skilfully evokes the heat, turbulence and raw energy of molten lava. Seen from both close-up and from a distance, the elemental forces are immediately and strongly communicated.

Lutfiyah, the title of the second piece, is a word from the Arabic meaning delicate or graceful, and conveys different emotions entirely. This is the artist in contemplative mood, and again features violet textures. The complementary third and fourth pieces, Indispensable and Crimson, echo the large colour blocks of early twentieth-century masters.

The larger-scale Turbulence, seen at The Dukes, uses gold leaf in imaginative and unusual ways. As opposed to using size to fix the gold onto the work, she applies it straight onto the wet paint, which makes for harsher and more interesting textures than are usually associated with this medium.

The last two pieces, Almost Beautiful and Green Jazz are, says Aziza, "more positive in mood'. She acknowledges the influence of music on her feelings as well as her work. The pieces are certainly vibrant: "You want to dance to jazz', she says.

Recycling is an important consideration for Aziza and, like other artists, musicians and writers, happily recycles her own work. Crimson has been painted over Violent Nature which was in The Dukes' exhibition.

Art is "cleansing, therapeutic'
Like many creative people, Aziza finds her work "cleansing … therapeutic for me', helping her through "the low points' in her life. She is moved to "recreate dreams – it's to do with vision,' she says. Emotions were an important component of The Dukes' show and, for me, the strength of her work lies in her ability to communicate those emotions.

"We all have these', she asserts, but we "don't always tune into it, we block it off'. She achieves this essential, vital communication without being patronising or glib and, thankfully, there is no trace of the self-indulgence and meaningless weighty ‘artspeak' so beloved of so many ‘respectable' galleries and artists.

Dreams and other aspects of vision and perception are also important. For her, the creative process has more than one dimension. "Dreams are quite an inspiration for me ... In dreams, you might just get a flavour of things - and you use these flavours to build on, to make some interesting layers", she says.

Aziza has recently taken a commission from "a friend' for a piece in cream and brown, which is too polychromatic for her liking because "I usually work in colour', she says, with the emphasis on the colour bit. "Colour affects everything'. She, of Gujarati descent, was coy about another potential commission to make pieces for a planned show to challenge ethnic stereotypes.

What is fascinating about the woman is that she admits to having had "no formal training'. I am neither a cosy coffee-table-traditionalist nor anti the avant-garde and modern art, but I am sure that work of this calibre from a formally untutored hand ranks heads and shoulders before much of what is seen in other, more lauded venues. You know where they are hereabouts…

All the works on show are available for purchase; details can be had from .

Copyright © 1 December 2003 Michael Nunn
Photograph by John Burkinshaw

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