Olly Fathers is a London-based artist whose work explores the interplay between abstract shapes, different materials, and forms. Incorporating woodwork as key part of his practice, his pieces take inspiration from architecture, design and culture, including early computer technology and graphics.
Having recently been asked to create work for Soho House Tel Aviv, we caught up with Olly to find out how he approached the commission.
TNG: When did you first become connected with Soho House, and how did the commission for Tel Aviv come about?
OF: Probably around five years ago, I would sometimes help Soho House installing artwork as a technician. Whilst working with the collections team they became aware of my art practice, which led to them purchasing a variety of works for their collection across different sites. They had actually already bought a couple of pieces for the Tel Aviv House and then I got asked if I had four pieces available for a particular part of the project. I didn’t, so I offered to make some specifically for Tel Aviv.
I enjoy creating series of works based on a narrative, it encourages me to approach the work in a different way to normal, which is a nice change and can unveil ideas or thoughts you perhaps otherwise wouldn’t discover.
TNG: Is Tel Aviv somewhere you know personally and have travelled to in the past?
OF: It isn’t somewhere I have ever visited, its certainly high on my bucket list of places to travel to though. I’d love to stroll around the streets admiring the Bauhaus influenced architecture.
TNG: How did you go about researching the type of art, design and architecture you wanted to reference in the work?
OF: Architecture has always been an influence for me and particularly minimal, clean lines like you see in the Bauhaus buildings in Tel Aviv. I like to use simple geometric shapes in my work that can suggest movement and depth. So I wanted these works to continue that, but also have a nod to some of the buildings in Tel Aviv. I just spent a long time researching and looking at images of various examples of these, then imagining which elements I could extract and reference in compositions I was putting together. I was very conscious of not trying to create a vector drawing of any individual building, I wanted them to still be very much abstract and not copied from a photograph.
TNG: How far back does your interest in Bauhaus and other modernist design go? Was it something you studied at art school?
OF: I think back at art school I became aware of it and instantly loved the aesthetic, stripped back simplicity of the compositions, designed furniture and objects.
TNG: Does your choice of veneered finishes and the colours you work with also connect to that interest in modernism?
OF: I’ve always been a big fan of modernist design as well as as art. I think my interest and appreciation of wood veneers and the aesthetic of the grain stems from seeing sleek, clean, minimal design. Generally well finished wood veneers – whether that be a in furniture, interior dressings or even a car dashboard – they all represent quality and superior craftsmanship, which is something I’ve always been in awe of. I think it’s been a driving force to try and be able to make work using these skills myself.
Work in Focus
Olly explains below about the inspiration behind two of the pieces he created for Tel Aviv.
This piece loosely references the white paint of the buildings in Tel Aviv. I was imagining the three horizontal sections as balconies or walkways for the different floors of a building and the circular objects could appear to be moving along them, in a similar way to how a person would.
The piece above is also loosely connected to walkways on a multi-storey building. On the left hand edge, the strips have a radial angle. I purposely wanted to represent the walkways on the buildings in Tel Aviv, which are often are curved when they reach a corner, rather than a sharp 90 degrees. This piece also has regimented circular shapes, taking inspiration from a building that has circular windows on the exterior walls.
On both these pieces, the vertical strip was added so that it would create some depth. I purposely made the shadows heighten the appearance of a recess between the different strips, representing the walkways of the building. Olly Fathers
Interview by Richard Unwin
You can follow Olly via his ANV profile.
You can also take a virtual tour of Olly’s Brixton studio as part of The Net Gallery’s exclusive series of artist studio tours.