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Surfacing: The art of Louise Olsen and Stephen Ormandy

Art Monthly, Issue 313 Summer 2018-19

Michael Fitzgerald


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The oozing amoebic forms, fashioned from resin, that have become signature pieces from Sydney's Dinosaur Designs since the mid-1980s, always seemed to signal a desire to transform into something else. As have their City Art Inscitute-trained creators, Louise Olsen and Stephen Ormandy, who established the iconic brand with Liane Rossler in 1985. Now the pair's lesser-known artistic oeuvre, drawn from a shared 30-year studio practice and on display at the Newcastle Arc Gallery until 17 February 2019, reveals a modernist aesthetic as seemingly simple and slippery as those early resin forms, moving from intimate and ethereal studies in watercol­our and oil (Olsen) to tumescent totemic sculpture and three-dimensional collage (Ormandy). Cricic Andrew Frost observes an undeniable logic at play: 'a deliberate engagement with beauty in surface, form and colour.'' Here rhe pair reveal more of their artiscic impulses.
Michael Fitzgerald (MF) Looking back at your three-decade archive for chis exhibition, to what extent is it a shared vision, and where do you see the nuances of difference?

Louise Olsen (LO) Over 30 years we have built a shared visual language in our work at Dinosaur Designs chat centres on organic natural forms. We love 1he juxtaposition of the modernity of the material and the traditional sculptural techniques that we use. Within this we also have our individual identities which we explore in our own art practices. Steve works with more linear-based forms and the play between posirive and negative spaces. My work is inspired by nature, che mythology of the Australian landscape and the interplay of spatial tensions. cion chat you share a deliberate engagement with beauty in surface, form and colour? And where do you think chis impulse comes from?
Stephen Ormandy (SO) This comes from our love of the history of art and the natural world. We are drawn by beauty and want to lift and heighten people's experi­ence of the world around them. We hope our exhibition is a refuge of positivity in the same spirit as Matisse, Miro and Calder.
MF How do you see your practices as moving between two- and three-dimensional forms, and also between the hierarchies of'design' and 'art'?
1Q We don't see the difference. We are artists and approach every piece we do in the same way - whether that is a bowl or a work on canvas. Giacometti produced homewares with his brother Diego, Picasso created ceramics, and Calder made jewellery, and it goes back to many artists throughout histor y who have explored a variecy of materials to create pieces ro be used and appreciated in many different ways. Arc can adorn the body and the home.
,SQ The divisions between arc and design are relatively modern and we don't really think about chem roo much. In a sense, we created the gift score first that allows the freedom co explore and create on a larger scale with painting and sculpture, which was always our intention.

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