Meet the Maker: Christian Ovonlen
During London Craft Week 2023, John Smedley will be launching a new limited-edition collection in collaboration with Intoart, a pioneering visual arts organisation enabling ‘people with learning disabilities to be visible, equal & established artists and designers’. For this month’s interview we speak to one of the artists involved in the collaboration, Christian Ovonlen.
Could you tell us a bit about your experience working within Intoart?
I have been at Intoart for 10 years now. I like working in the studio and getting ready for shows. Working with other artists, having visitors and audiences. Work makes me happy. Amazing, wonderful, marvelous, gorgeous beautiful colours.
What are your preferred materials to work with and why?
I do drawings, blending the colours on the paper, turquoise blues and bright blues, the browns and greens. I always like pink, orangey yellow and pinky yellow. I like doing black shiny ink on tracing paper to make the pattern and then choosing the ink colours for printing. On the screens I use the paint brushes, thin, thick and medium. I enjoy doing the squeegee. When I take the screen off, I see it’s going to be amazing and wonderful on the silk textiles.
I like making work about concerts and the theatre stage. These are my ‘Theatrical’ artworks. I look closely at my drawings, drawing the stage with browns, the dancers with black shoes. I close my eyes and imagine being at the theatre, in the audience scared of the dark and then happy when the stage lights shine. The dancers are dancing on the stage, I am hearing classical music. The dancers in my silks are like a melody.
I make my ‘Botanical’ artwork because I like to make work about flowers, laying them out on the table, drawing and making prints. Screen printing on paper and on silk textiles.
What do you enjoy about the process of collaborating with a company like John Smedley?
I have made new drawings and chosen new colours. It’s exciting.
In what way is creating work that will ultimately be worn different to your usual creative practice?
I do make my own costumes. I wear my costumes, it’s like I am wearing a uniform. [For this collaboration] I like seeing my artwork on clothes, and other people wearing my drawings.
What is inspiring you at the moment?
My work for knitwear is about the picked flowers and the botanical garden.
What are you looking forward to working on next?
In the future I want to be making more costumes and outfits. If I make lots of costumes, it looks like I am doing a catwalk. Fresh music and bright lights.
Intoart’s studio is located in the heart of Peckham. The full time studio programme spans art, design & craft and is an alternative art school for people with learning disabilities to develop a long-term creative practice. Intoart has realised exhibitions and commissions with contemporary art galleries and museums in the UK and internationally.
Artworks – Botanical Hand painted and printed silk textiles. Courtesy of the artist and Intoart
Portrait – Photographer credit Alun Callender