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Eye To Eye by Helen Pakeman

The O3 Gallery would like to welcome Helen Pakeman to exhibit her series of evocative portraits this holiday season. We have named the exhibition Eye to Eye since Pakeman’s drawings focus on striking portrayals of unknown faces, often women and children, who engage with the viewer through direct eye contact.

Originally from a retail background with franchises in The Body Shop, Helen Pakeman turned her back on business and started to train in Fine Art. She gained a degree in Drawing from Bath University in 2006 and has worked as an artist since, with group exhibitions in Swindon, Bath and Oxford Artweeks.

She also works as an illustrator for the Charity ‘Wells for India’ on a voluntary basis and is hoping to visit projects in Rajasthan in January/February 2009. ‘Some of the faces in this exhibition are of the desert peoples in the areas around the Aravali Hills – strong, resilient faces. I am really looking forward to meeting the villages we are in partnership with and collecting photographs and sketches to work from when I return.’

Helen works mainly from photographs, using images from a variety of sources as her inspiration: newspapers, television and the various charity leaflets that arrive so regularly through the letterbox.

‘I have been preoccupied for some time with the way very private moments of grief are made fleetingly public through photo-reportage; how, unknowingly, these faces are used to stir our pity and our purses.

Initially my drawings were a response to this succession of desperate images which flicker so briefly across our television screens and newspapers. It was an attempt to slow things down through the process of drawing, and give them more space and attention. Unlike taking a photograph, drawing involves a physical re-creating and an intimate involvement with one’s subject.

Portraiture has traditionally been the prerogative of the influential and wealthy few. I like the irony of making portraits of people whose names we will never know and, although many of them will have been portrayed as victims of one disaster or another, I hope I have conveyed a sense of dignity and self worth.’ Helen Pakeman ’08.