This week, we’re delighted to announce that the work of Canadian illustrator and mural artist, Ola Volo is now available at Enter Gallery.
Known for narrative works inspired by folklore, identity and multiculturalism, every piece Volo creates is alive with powerful female energy, mixing bold colour and strong lines to reflect the generations of women who have come before us.
In today’s blog, during her visit to the UK, we’re chatting to Volo about her journey towards unapologetically taking up space in the often male-dominated world of street art, the myths and legends that inspire her work, and about her new print release with Enter Gallery.
Once upon a time…
Volo began her artistic career as an illustrator before diving into the world of street art 10 years ago. This expansion of her practice was inspired by a chance meeting in New York with one of the greatest street artists of all time – Shepard Fairey (Obey). Volo tells us:
“He was super kind and encouraging and I realised I wanted his job. His work is heavily-influenced by Russian propaganda, which I grew up around, so it was interesting and inspiring to see how he adapted that style and executed it differently to infuse it with a new context. That helped me to figure out how I could adapt my illustrations into large-scale murals.
The Future is Female
Enter Gallery has always been a champion of women street artists, however, the world of street art remains a male-dominated arena. We were interested to hear about Volo’s experience:
“I went in to it a little naïve, just wanting to paint the streets. When I first started out, I worried that my work didn’t look anything like the street art that I was used to seeing but my pieces are based on folklore, and really those narratives are universal, so people around the world connected with it.”
“It took some time but I eventually realised how important it is to carve a niche for yourself, using your unique voice and style, because it’s what you believe in. I’ve learnt many lessons in being true to my style and to my voice, and taking up the space unapologetically. It’s been a beautiful journey learning to enjoy being myself rather than thinking I have to become some ‘cool graffiti guy’.”
Now, Volo has no trouble taking up space – quite literally. Her murals are found around the world from Mexico to Montreal, where one of her works is so big that you can see it from the plane when you land in the city. She tells us:
“She looks so comfortable, just sitting there. It’s so fun to see something that’s accessible to all people taking up that space, and something that is all about positivity rather than provocation.”
Legend Has It
From her pattern work to the characters that she depicts, creating work based on her heritage and the folklore she was taught as a child has led Volo to connect with people around the world, all of whom relate to the familiar narratives portrayed. Volo reveals:
“The mix of styles and pattern seen in my art are also influenced by my childhood. I have a Russian Father, a Polish Mother and I was born and raised in Kazakhstan, which is a very Middle Eastern and Asian-influenced country. My grandma was really interested in introducing me to Polish, Russian and Ukrainian folklore so I found that when I moved to Canada, I really wanted to bridge those two world’s together.”
“The characters, and especially the female characters, that I bring into my work are all influenced by this sense of delicate femininity balanced with real power. I wanted the stories and characters that I was creating to bring the kind of energy I was experiencing in Canada, where you’re free to be who you are, to take up space and to be confident. In a lot of my recent work, I’ve used female figures that are nude – but they don’t feel nude to me, to me they occupy their space in a way that’s their own.”
This Friday, Volo is releasing her print, Terra, with Enter Gallery. The piece is from the artist’s Les Femmes series, in which she creates her own interpretations of goddesses.
In the limited edition print Volo depicts her goddess sporting a crown, and holding a swan – a bird that carries much symbolism in the folklore realm, as an emblem of grace and beauty. Volo tells us:
“In Terre, the character is holding and taking care of a swan, which is a powerful but delicate creature. I see this in the context of Mother Earth and of her taking care of the ones that need the most care. It represents the importance of taking care of each other and of our planet.”
Volo is in Brighton to launch her prints dropping at Enter Gallery this Friday and to create a new mural on Trafalgar Street, one of the best spots in the city for street artists.
“I can’t wait to create a piece in Brighton. It’ll be a test for me. I’m excited to see how it comes across.”
Book a street art tour for Wednesday 5th April and you will see Ola in action painting the new mural! Book tickets.
Enter Gallery has an exclusive pre-release available on Ola's new print drop. Find out more about the new prints here.