Ollie Gillard of Gage Graphics is a passionate designer and illustrator with over 6 years experience working for advertising agencies in Bristol and Bath. For the past 10 years he has also been painting large, commissioned murals.
The theory of stigmergy suggests that an agent’s actions leave signs in the environment – signs that it and other agents sense and that determine their subsequent actions. This can be seen across every city in the world – not least, here in Bristol. Street art and sculptures exist within Bristol as a form of visual communication between the artist and the public. Not only do murals, installations and pictorial representations bring new ideas to the locality, they also have the potential to transform public spaces.
Bristol has its own identity born out of its long history of street artists including the mysterious Banksy, and the infamous Cheo and Loch Ness – both featured as part of the forthcoming BBC 6 Music Festival taking place in Bristol in February. Nelson Street, Stokes Croft and North Street have developed their own unique reputation, in part, a dialect that arises due to their prominence through the street art, murals and graffiti that colour the streets and buildings.
Luke Jerram, visual artist, is well known in Bristol for his physical installations including his recent glass sculpture as a means to communicate the rising seriousness of homelessness within the city. Ideas that resonate, provoke and create a sense of shared space – all of these elements combine to create a reaction.
On speaking of art, Tolstoy suggests that art must have a significance in the community, for a greater good. He suggests that a work of art is only a work of art when it introduces a new feeling into the general useage of human life. Plato suggests that art must be spiritually beautiful; Socrates insists that art must be ‘good’; and Aristotle says that art must affect people morally, stemming from religious values and Christianity, historically. Tolstoy further goes on to express that art, together with speech, is a means of communication and therefore, also of progress – towards moving mankind towards ‘perfection’.
We might ask: what actually is ‘perfection’? And is there such a thing? In life, and in art, there is a great deal of subjectivity that goes into both the creation and reception of ideas.
1970s New York was the birthplace of subway graffiti and the late 1990s saw a rise in street art and graffiti as a response to anti-war and anti-globalisation, facilitated by the overwhelming access to online information. It became a part of the communicative fabric of a city – from pixacao tagging in Brazil to stencil art in the Arab Spring to post-conflict murals in East Timor. Saskia Sassen (2011) suggests that the idea of street art now has a global resonance, where new forms of the social and the political space can be made, an alternative theory from the former ‘graffiti as street disorder’ school of thought, popular in the 1980s.
Urban creativity is something that Bristol is strongly recognised for. Murals are effective means of expressing a positive idea and marking a public space in such a way that both transforms and transcends reality. As Ollie Gillard of Gage Graphics, based in Bristol, recognises.
Ollie was born in Totterdown yet spent most of his childhood and teenage years in the south of France. He recently returned to Bristol, realising that the city could offer opportunities to pursue his graphic design and visual art. He has re-energised entire skylines and horizons – notably, the row of colourful houses that can be seen as the train pulls into Bristol Temple Meads, drawing your eye to Totterdown and beyond. Ollie is the mastermind behind these mural designs, and feels strongly that his ideas are both accessible and engaging to the public:
“Murals started to become possible when I moved here – I chased that dream and it’s starting to evolve nicely.”
“Throughout my life I’ve always drawn, my whole family are artists, so I’ve always been surrounded by it. Graphic design is always something I knew I would do as a profession. Murals started to become possible when I moved here – I chased that dream and it’s starting to evolve nicely.” Ollie explains.
His designs are always eye-catching and vibrant – filled with life and a freshness that appeals to onlookers, something that he has tried to develop in keeping with his overall views on the impact of street art in a positive way:
“I quite enjoy the reactions people have. Over the years, I’ve noticed that people engage more with nature and animals – kids especially. That’s pushed me to go much more towards pictorial designs – even a character or face – people respond to that more.” He says.
Growing up near to Toulouse in France, Ollie found it to be a creative space and there were opportunities to develop ideas with like-minded artists, however, compared to Bristol, he did not find the council to be as lenient in terms of gaining permission to transform buildings – as much of the buildings are listed and protected.
“I’d say there is an openness here to art that is quite different to other places.”
“Bristol council is quite open to it, in France you have a lot of protected buildings, so things take longer to arrange and sometimes it’s not possible. I’d say there is an openness here to art that is quite different to other places.” Ollie adds.
Much of Ollie’s opportunities have evolved through word of mouth, and over time, he has gained most of his commissions through being approached by the owners of homes such as the ones on the Totterdown skyline. His work seems to resonate due to its aesthetically pleasing qualities.
“I quite like improving a space. I’m going to take my paints wherever I go. Try and leave a mark somewhere.” Ollie says.
Previously having travelled in the USA and South America, Ollie was invited to paint a huge mural in Charlottesville, Virginia, as the official emblem, symbolic of their state. The red cardinal bird now is proudly on display within a public park space in the city. This year, he has many commissions planned within Bristol, as he explains:
“I’ve got some great commissions coming up – most of them in Totterdown again. Plans are for a massive giraffe, huge flocks of birds flying around and ideas along this theme. Mostly it’s private people who own houses who contact me. I recently painted the street in Corn Street – for the CentreSpace Gallery. So now there’s a colourful monkey in the alleyway.” He muses.
Ollie is planning on illustrating children’s books, as well as working on storyboards and with watercolours. His inspirations are generally very definitive, as he tells us:
“Usually very well executed paintings impress me. Good use of colour and landscapes – detail, things that draw you in – I’m really impressed by that. I love calligraphy as well and how it can be used with images. I am quite critical of other artists actually, and of myself.”
Ollie’s high standards and perfectionism mean that he is always pushing himself to reach beyond his limits and there comes a point on each creation, where he has to draw the line, take a step back and walk away:
“You have to tell yourself that this will do, that’s good enough. It’s a good thing to learn and to get. I know when I’ve done enough – I’m happy now and I walk away.” He says.
Ollie’s work can be found across Bristol – including World Fossils Shop in St Nicholas Market and previous Totterdown Arts Trails. Keep your eye on his website for updates of his future plans this year, which he is looking forward to:
“I’m really looking forward to getting on with some more murals this year – I can feel it’s going to be a productive year.” Ollie says.
Ollie Gillard owns his own graphic design and mural business: Gage Graphics.
For more information on Gage Graphics: www.gagegraphics.co.uk