After studying fashion and textiles at Central St Martins, London based artist, Oli Fowler went on to specialise in screen-printing and graphic design. His devotion to the print-making process led him to Print Club London where he has tutored amateurs and professionals alike as a master of the craft.
Valuing experimentation during his creative process to determine the direction of the finished work, his playful passion for screen-printing is palpable in his latest series of colourful retro vintage typographic prints.
To welcome Oli Fowler to Enter Gallery, we are thrilled to launch his latest release Disco Club exclusively available at Enter Gallery.
We caught up with Oli to talk screen-printing, London and why he loves retro so much…
What made you move from fashion and textiles into print work?
You won’t believe it and I don’t know why, but up to around the age of 16 I thought you could only screen print onto fabric, either that or I thought in order to use screen printing equipment on paper you had to do fashion and textiles! So basically I worked my ass off learning fashion and textiles and managed to get into St Martins just so I could screen print.
You have led screen-printing classes and provided one-to-one tutoring for creative professionals and beginners alike. What is it about the screen printing process that you like?
I love all the stages; researching ideas to then transfer to the computer and then move into the design. I love how my days are split into work from home on my computer and then work in a messy studio. When all my screens are set up I like switching off from the world around me and forgetting everything - the only thing that matters is printing that print perfectly. I love the intense focus to get something right… I love that I will always be learning the process and how it always throws up new challenges.
You said you value experimentation and mistakes to give direction for the finished piece. How do you know when a piece is finished?
In the early days I would just keep going and experimenting layer over layer. The piece would never be finished. I just wanted to see what the limits were as screen printer. There are lots of things that can go wrong or don’t look right, and part of that experimentation is knowing when to stop which is also about understanding composition.
These days I will design on the computer but I don’t usually match the colours of the design spot on. I like to work it out as I go along and by doing so, it makes me understand colour better. Also, if I make a mistake with the colour I’m forced to work it out. I don’t see that as a bad thing, just a continuous learning curve.
You were commissioned by The Museum of London to create vibrant, eye-catching visuals that were inherently London. How did you capture this and what did you want to express about London?
The Museum of London commission was such an amazing time. I spent around 4 months making the images as I had to use photos that were owned by the museum so I would spend my days scouring archives that they had given me access to. I would also have behind the scenes access to the museum spaces where they kept thousands of objects. Overall London is about diversity so that’s what I wanted to convey and that’s what the museum was after as well.
I love London. I've lived and worked here for 20 years and I’ve always had a close eye on the changes the city is going through. To be able to add the mix of peoples’ different cultures and backgrounds into the work and to add architecture and history to the illustrations was amazing and something that I’m very proud of.
What is your favourite thing about being an artist?
I love the flexibility of my days, I prefer to have as little routine in my life as possible just to keep things mixed up. I think the main thing about being an artist is absolutely loving what I do. It has taken me so long to get to this point and I’m super grateful to be doing something I love especially when it incorporates different aspects such as design, craft and illustration.
What is a typical day for you look like?
I get up around 7 (on a good day) try and do some yoga, smoke a cigarette, try and drink a smoothie but its usually just coffee. Then I hike to the studio and print for between 7 and 14hrs depending on what I have to do. If it’s a long day I’m usually at the desk for the rest of the next day. I’m trying to become more mindful and learning how to relax a little and I’m getting there!
Why do you think it is important to have art at home and what do you think your artwork brings to a space?
Its so important to have art at home, it is a projection of oneself. It can brighten up the home or it can make you stop and think. Typographical art can be a positive for the day ahead or when you return home. I like to think that my artwork keeps people smiling. It is usually based around music, so for me it’s a projection of what you are feeling inside. That’s why I create it, because it’s all the things I love and what I think people love as well… like “don’t be shy, you know we all love disco!’ shout about it!
You latest collection is very funky! What inspired you to create this retro style of art?
All the work I have made over the years has had some connection to retro vintage. It stems from being well into jazz funk from an early age. My mum encouraged me to listen to it. I love 1980’s ephemera and I’m constantly looking through old magazines that I pick up from car boot fairs. I think the main thing is that it reminds me of my childhood.
The retro style I’m currently using is perfect for the music related pieces. I really feel I’ve only just touched the surface with this current style and I’m always looking for ways of taking this style in new directions.
Thank you Oli!