Screen-print aficionado Oli Fowler’s colour saturated text pieces are the stuff of a disco lover’s dream - marrying his sharp technical precision with a sense of fun and playfulness, Oli’s work is bold and beautiful in equal measure.
In his practice, the artist is able to harness the electricity and excitement of his beloved disco music and infuse it within his work. Oli’s prints capture the essence of the 1970s psychedelic aesthetic, updating it with modern twists to create works which are simultaneously familiar and refreshingly new.
We asked Oli his thoughts on being bold with colour, screen-printing and his love of disco.
Q: Your work manages to capture 1970s visual language in a very modern way - where do you draw inspiration for your type faces?
A: I often scour old magazines and pick out typefaces, then consult font forums to find out what the typeface names are. But with the Cooper Standard font I've been using over the past year or so my main inspiration came from walking the streets and looking at shop signs – it's amazing how much Cooper Standard is used.
Q: Colour is a huge part of your work, do you start each piece with a palette in mind? How much of a connection is there between text and colour in each work?
A: I start out with a rough idea on the computer but by the time I get to the screen-print studio I'm very loose with my colours – I like to make it up as I go along. It brings back the "painted" element to the final edition. As long as I have all the primary colours and a big pot of white I’m pretty much good to go. I don’t like to be so planned out these days... it keeps me on my toes.
Q: You’re clearly a disco lover, what is it you love about the genre? And what’s your favourite disco track?
A: I just love the raw energy of it all... the 4/4 beat, the parties, the debauchery... It’s like a time when no one seemed to worry. I love all kinds of music (soul, funk, jazz etc), but I feel the biggest connection with disco – I would say my current favourite disco-ish track would probably be Planetary Citizen by John McLaughlin & Mahivishnu Orchestra. You can just imagine people getting down to that back in the day.
Q: If you were going to cheat on disco with another genre, what would it be?
A: It’d have to be Jazz Fusion…. I have a deep love for all the airbrushed album sleeve artwork from that genre. The great thing about fusion is that its really experimental so that would be reflected in the artwork.
Q: As a screen-print authority, when did you first try your hand at the medium? What keeps you returning to it?
A: I first started it around the age of 16 at college. I always was interested in it from the moment my mum showed me a book when I was 9 or 10 – I often think about why I return to it but I also think I'm still only half way through learning. It’s a craft which takes a long time to learn.
Q: Working with screen-print requires a lot of time in the studio - how has lockdown affected your process?
A: It’s been a bit of a pain in the arse recently. I've had to shift my hours and work early early mornings so I can dodge people. The cold doesn’t help but nothing some thermals can't sort out. Everything is just taking longer.
Q: There’s a real sense of fun and energy in your work. How important do you find remaining playful and experimental is to your process?
A: I think life is all about being playful and experimental so it can come quite easy for me if I want it to. It's very important to keep on having fun and messing around with ideas even though things might not work out… ideas will always flow if you keep on messing around with stuff!
Q: We've been big fans of yours for years now and can't wait to see what you've got planned next - can you give us a sneak peak of what 2021 has in store for you?
A: Ahh thanks! So 2020 was all about mastering the text rainbow effect with a solid background - not as easy to screen-print as it looks! But now I've worked it out, I'm moving on to more textured backgrounds. A whole new set of typefaces. Collage images here and there. I've got stacks of magazines I've been playing around with so who know what could happen...