“We just happened to find ourselves at a time when we all needed a creative shot in the arm”

Local artists Agatha O’Neill, Elizabeth Barrett and Kerrie Kent are exhibiting their new work series ‘Word a Day’ at Rubys of London on Monson Road until 16 December. Eileen Leahy what it is…

AEK is the acronym for a local creative trio of three talented artists: Agatha O’Neill, Elizabeth Barrett and Kerrie Kent, who are currently presenting their new collective body of work at vegan patisserie Rubys of London.

AEK reflects the first names of the talented trio – Agatha, Elizabeth, Kerrie – and came about relatively simply.

“We needed something (to call ourselves) and we just started using AEK organically. It works for us and the best things are usually that simple,” they tell us.

Their “Word a Day” project started a few years ago, and despite a Covid-shaped curveball being thrown into the mix, the artists have continued the movement. But how did it all begin?

“We met at a time when we all needed a creative shot in the arm.”

Elizabeth and Kerrie met working in the fashion office of YOU magazine in the mid-nineties, while Agatha and Elizabeth were classmates at Sacred Heart School (now Beechwood). Kerrie and Agatha met a few years later when they both worked together on creative projects at Hoopers department store.

“We all naturally bonded over a shared love of creativity,” they tell me.

“We launched ‘Word a Day’ to push ourselves further and explore a project outside of the everyday. We did six months of posting our artwork online without missing a day, then held an exhibition at the end of that period.”

That was in 2016 when the women exhibited as part of the UnArt show of the UnFest event, run by The Forum. So what does it entail for the three of them to do?

“I created a visual for a random word every day. We thought of one word at a time, never in advance, so sometimes we had to create on the fly at any time of the day. There were no rules, we didn’t have to be literal and we could use any medium we wanted. It was complete and amazing freedom. It’s also a lot of fun to be part of a collective.

“We WhatsApp each other late into the night – not always about art – sometimes about life, love and ambition. It’s just great conversations with friends brought together for a mad love of creativity and beauty.”

Since the trio were first exposed six years ago, they haven’t performed together – until now…

“This is the first time we’ve exhibited our art as a trio since then,” they explain.

“We all exhibited individually and sold our work. Agatha had an exhibition at Trinity, while Kerrie was involved in various art projects to raise money for the Brompton Foundation as well as other charities.”

So what will their new show bring to the table and how did the Rubys of London show come about?

“Kerrie was approached by Ruby about exhibiting her art and suggested we all get involved. We all knew and admired the brand, it is very fresh and quite feminine, but also contemporary with a touch of luxury. So I explored moods and color palettes to complement the surroundings. We were truly free to create work in our own style and at our own pace, so each collection has its own unique inspiration. The exhibition will end on December 16 and each original work is priced at £60.”

What do they think visitors will enjoy most at the new AEK show?

“We are really passionate about originality and we believe that because each painting is completely unique, both in style and message, people will really take away what it means to them. After all, art is what it means to you personally. What you see. What do you like and what do you feel? Now, more than ever, it’s wonderful—even healthy—to take a moment away from paper or screen to see something new and get a little lost in your own world.”

So are they all trained artists or just passionate about creating work?

“We’ve all been mad about art since day one, and the thing we all have in common is that we’ve always created, no matter where our lives and our jobs have taken us.”

Agatha is an art director working full-time in advertising based in London. Elizabeth is a senior designer for a creative agency based in Bristol and Kerrie is the founder and owner of The Brand Studio, specializing in creative branding, design and consultancy.

“When you find a natural joy – or compulsion – to create, it lives on, even when (or especially when) life is hard. Between us we had jobs in art direction, journalism, styling, photography, graphic design and publishing. The joy found in creative expression is what unites us. So should I share it? Well, that’s just the icing on the sundae!”

And finally, what are AEK’s collective plans for 2023?

“Next year looks very interesting. We have had a fantastic reaction to this exhibition so far and have really found it a great way to work together as well as alongside each other. We have a new project that we plan to release in the spring that will draw inspiration from our “Word a Day” roots, but really bring our personalities and styles together in a new direction.

“We are also discussing an even more accessible form of artistic expression for the city – if we find the time. Watch this space!”

The AEK show is at Rubys of London until December 16 and each painting costs £60.

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