l e n i n i m p o r t s . c o m
Update: Oct. 12
Just added details of 10 signed Vaughan Oliver & v23 Poster Designs books now in stock to shop. Plus the sale price of £3.99 for This Mortal Coil Filgree & Shadow poster. - all have now sold.
How could any one talk about graphic design of the last 20 years without mentioning something about Vaughan Oliver (born September 12, 1957 in Sedgefield, England)? Oliver's works focuses on sobriety and weirdness, but its weirdness has a uniqueness that is just plain beautiful. Without doubt, he is one of the most important graphic designers to come out of Britain in the last 20 years and his influence can be seen far and wide.
With the photographer, Nigel Grierson, Oliver set up the design company, 23 envelope in the early 80s; rechristened v23) in 1988 after Grierson's departure. Within its own structure, he deeply influenced the sleeve design area during the 80'. Mostly working for the label 4AD, designing sleeves for Ultra Vivid Scene, Clan of Xymox, Frank Black, Pixies, Cocteau Twins, This Mortal Coil (see their Filigree & Shadow cover), Robert Fripp and many others, Vaughan Oliver has even a wider palette than Brody or Emigre's people: he is not just a graphist; he is a real art director, either skilled for graphic design or typography than for photography. Working with talented photographers, he masters the whole process, from conceiving pictures to the final lay-out.
His & v23's work with the legenday ambient guru, David Sylvian is now mythical and the closest that pop and art have ever been. It is a collaboration that continues to this day. See the Sylvian album covers such as Secrets of the Beehive and the accompanying poster, to Approaching Silence and books such as Trophies I & Trophies II and Oliver's design is an intregal and obvious part of the experience...to such an extent that the work of both artists becomes one completely.
In his 2001 book,
Visceral Pleasures, Oliver explores the different phases of his career. At their most expressive and inventive, his graphic images embody his intense responses as a listener, plunging the viewer into a world of visceral sensation and pleasure.
Oliver and v23, which includes Chris Bigg, have their offices in Wandsworth, South London. He also resides in London.
(paul page, lenin imports - 2002)
VAUGHAN OLIVER & v23 POSTER DESIGNS
Slightly off the Ground - Exhibition
18 January - 3 March 2007
Tue - Fri 12 - 6pm, Sat 12 - 4pm, Entry FREE
Stanley Picker Gallery
Kingston upon Thames
The blurb reads:
'Slightly off the Ground presents (Vaughan Oliver's) personal selection of his iconic music posters from early works with 4AD to the present day, the exhibition providing a rare overview of the themes and influences that underpin the practice of this inspirational graphic alchemist. The specially devised gallery installation, evocative of the street setting where the posters would have been first encountered, is designed together with his long term collaborator Chris Bigg, and will be sound-tracked by the music that inspired the resulting designs.'
With that in mind I headed off to the Stanley Picker Gallery in Kingston looking forward to this exhibition. And the charming little gallery by the Hogsmill River is as leafy picturesque as leafy picturesque can be for a place just a 10 minute walk from 'bloody hell, parking is sheer hell' city that is otherwise known as Kingston town centre. But the Hogsmill River isn't the River Thames: it's technically a river I guess but makes a damned good impression of a puffed-up stream. And that is the problem in a nutshell. In my opinion a Vaughan Oliver exhibition should be at a gallery by the River Thames and not by the Hogsmill (Tate Britain methinks, after all Rachel Whiteread had Embankment exhibited at the Tate's gigantic Turbine Hall in 2005 and that was just s ... oh, that's another story).
I know this misses the point of the exhibition. This is an intimate affair and these are a few posters from Olver's personal collection but there just aren't enough of them, nor is the place big enough to possible do justice to his career to date. For example I for one would loved to have seen some of the designs for the acclaimed David Sylvian Trophies II book for which v23 did the design. That book is breathtakingly, achingly, beautiful. But probaly the most disappointing result from the longterm collaboration with the once "most beautiful man in the world", Darshan, is what they have chosen to show here. I know that there were poster designs for Trophies II and, lordy, they took the breath away.
At the end of the day, Oliver is the most important graphic designer of the last 25 years. There are probaly around 40 designs maximum on show here and that is not enough. I know it is free admission and I know what is there is beautifully presented but there is just not enough of it. I for one would have paid an admission price to see a lot more works. And it wasn't a problem for me as I don't live that far away but anybody travelling a long distance would be very disappointed at the brevity on what's on show here. Indeed, you can whizz around what amounts to one largish room in five minutes.
The exhibition catalogue is great though. When I enquired about the exhibition's signed limited edition print from the sales assistant who is located on a ledge above the gallery floor I was told that they no longer had it there but check the gallery's website to order it. So I did and you can't order it on the website!
So all in all, this could have been done much better. Really, it's just for the most fanatical of Vaughan Oliver/v23 fans.
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