Colour becomes the main subject of the artwork in Andel Olivier’s Abstracts series. Currently living in Cyprus and inspired by her surrounds, this artist’s work has taken on a new direction…and we like it. DECO asked Andel to shine some light on her process and inspirations…
Your studio space is…
I’m currently living in Nicosia, Cyprus. My studio is light and airy with great views over this interesting city. Nicosia has had a difficult past, and the city is split in the middle, half of it is occupied by Turkish Forces, I’m living on the Greek side. The studio itself is not as organised as it could be, but its my safe space, with walls to pin images and ideas and coffee at hand, and the sweetest greek neighbours who bring me Moussaka and Spanakopita whenever they have extra. I couldn’t ask for anything more.
A typical working day for you…
At my most productive before noon, I try to get as much as possible done early. My process is usually to get a good audiobook or music going, organise my workspace a bit and then fall right into it. Scanning and photographing my process meticulously and always referring to my sketchbooks and research files online to get inspired. Every mark I make gets recorded and used in some way later in my process. I don’t take my schedule too seriously, instead just going with the flow.
Three words or a quote that best describes your work…
Imaginitive, unapologetic, bold.
Do you have one particular artwork that is your favorite ?
As a student I remember studying the abstract expressionists and looking at the small photos of their paintings in my textbooks, and thinking ‘sure, thats pretty’ but I never really got it. It was only when viewing Mark Rothko’s, and the work of other expressionists in real life, that I understood how a painting can make you have an emotional reaction. Standing in front of the Rothko’s for hours – mesmerized and transported, it was a real turning point for me and I always return to that feeling when stuck.
Please elaborate on the concept behind your work.
The abstract works are an extension of my interest in the theories of some renowned twentieth century colour theorists including Johannes Itten and Josef Albers. Through the study of their work I have realised people respond instinctively to colour harmonies and discord, and that through clever application and control of colour, one has the ability to produce vibrant perceptual experiences within the viewer, even if the colours are not used to represent anything specific. Colours blur and vibrate when placed next to one another, modifying in tonal intensity and deepening in three dimensional space. Colour has become more than a mere element of my work, in this series, it has become the subject. Through my work I aim to use colour theory to deviate from reality and challenge the conventions of visual perception.
How do you balance commercial work with your own personal work? Are they much intertwined?
The two are very connected. Working on many projects at once, in stepping away from one piece and working on something else for a while, it helps me to view certain stumbling blocks from a distance. Working on something else in the meantime often steers my work in a new direction.
Specific rituals to prepare for new work or exhibitions?
In a way I’m a bit of a hoarder – the scanner is my best friend. I literally scan leaves and wrappers and old magazines and pieces of paper found on the sidewalk resulting in folders upon folders on the computer filled with images. When starting out a new project I simply go through it all and group together what I like at that stage. I’ll then try to find a common thread and start drawing/making blotches to decide on colours and themes, but then it grows in different directions.
When living in Mauritius I made collages, which to me, fit in well with the surroundings. It was so diverse, so many different looking people, places, cultures, the huge collages and installations made sense of all the chaos. Then my work evolved with a solo Portrait exhibition in Pretoria. Now back to abstracts, I try not to pin myself down too much and let it grow naturally
Do you draw inspiration for your work from life, travel, people…?
It’s a combination. Having been lucky enough to spend time living in very interesting places, I recently spent two years living in Mauritius getting really submerged in the cultures, colours and flavours of the place. It was so refreshing. My work was able to grow without judgement and develop naturally. On arrival in Cyprus, I was taken aback by how brown, dusty and dry it was – a sharp contrast to tropical, colorful Mauritius. It made me aware of any pop of colour that I encountered. While exploring my new home, I really noticed the orange nectarines on the trees, the turquoise of the ocean, the graffiti on the old venetian walls, and realised that it brought me great happiness. I believe the latest colour explosion in my work is a result of this.
What mediums to work with do you most favor?
Gouache, watercolour, acrylic and various inks. Being quite impatient, I haven’t really found my way to oils yet. That is my challenge for the rest of the year. For now, when I attempt a painting, its in acrylic. I always line my desk with some good quality Paper, on which to dab brushes and test colors – these palettes often become the inspiration for future paintings, or sometimes even paintings themselves.
The ultimate color combination?
Aged 4, in pre-school, I saw a woman wearing a fire-engine red dress, with enormous purple spots on. I remember thinking those colours go exceptionally well together. For a year, all of my drawings heroed those two colours. Still following that approach, at the moment my favourite combinations are copper/cedar green/teal/cobalty blue. But I will always add a pop of Carrot orange/lemon yellow or fluo pink. I just cant help myself.
Best advice you’ve ever been given?
Harden the fuck up.
What is the largest scale work you have done thus far?
I once painted a huge mural at the now infamous Hotbox Studios in Pretoria. It was approximately 4-5m wide. It consisted of little dabs of colour, about the size of a thumb. It took me ages to complete, but it made for a great photo backdrop!
Your ultimate dream project?
To collaborate with children for an exhibition.
What are the main positives and negatives of working in an Artistic role?
Never bored and always painting, or drawing or thinking of what to do/paint/draw next. One of the hardest parts of being an artist is keeping motivated and true to my original ideas.
Top 3 major influences on your work?
I am inspired by childrens art. Children are so uninhibited and tend to not overthink colour combinations too much. I spent two years teaching kids art classes, and their loose and free approach to colour inspired me to start playing again and stop considering every brushstroke. And nature. By just looking at a landscape or any scene in nature, it’s all so perfectly balanced. Currently I have an obsession with rock pools.
Top 3 artistic icons of all time?
Favourite artists at the moment are Andre Derain for his adventurous use of colour, Henry Darger for his naive approach and that woman in America that only wears green, for her commitment.
Favorite words to live by?
You are always just one decision away from a completely different life.
Advice you would give your younger self in Art school?
Inhale confidence, exhale doubt.
What is next for Andel Olivier?
Currently settling into life in Cyprus, I’ll be here based for the next two years. I’m feeling very inspired by my surroundings at the moment and so having no trouble turning out work. I am developing the abstracts, working on a much larger scale, and looking to exhibit next year. Also looking to launch a range of textiles early next year, which will be printed in Milan.
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