by Ellie Chung
Last Thursday night, I rushed to Make studio, located on east 7th avenue where a Vancouver based illustrator from Kazakhstan, Ola Volo’s solo show opening was taking place. Ola Volo is well known for her distinctive artistic style: flattened, highly intricate and decorative images of figures, architecture, domestic commodities, flora and fauna with a variety of elaborate patterns. When I arrived, it was ten minutes to the end of the event. However the atmosphere there was far from closing.
The room was still packed with people, looking at the works, drinking, socializing, coming back and forth for smoke breaks. The DJ’s playlist kept on playing loud. I ran into some of my friends who I did not know they were planning to come to the event. The night was more of a social gathering for me. However Ola Volo’s big paintings on the wall were not excluded from the party vibe. The contents of the paintings were actively engaging with the people’s interactions.
Volo’s practice of referring to East European folklores, traditional patterns from different cultures with hyper personalized animals offer the audiences of varying cultural backgrounds something to clue out visual narratives within her paintings.
Her works are communal. Although Volo often addresses folktales of her cultural background, the emphasis is rather on the experience of envisioning written narratives as a child. We all grew up with stories of curious characters, talking animals and enchanted nature. Through Volo’s all over visual description, we revisit our childhood stories.
It is a fine line on which Ola Volo is walking. Her use of specific animals to depict particular personalities and qualities as well as patterns and narratives drawn from cultural traditions can be either a powerful method to spark a collective experience among the viewers or a play of stereotypes and generics. It seems like Ola Volo knows where the balance is, though.
Ola Volo’s solo show is happening at Make gallery (257 East 7th Avenue). The gallery is open to public Thursday/Friday 4-6pm until February 26th.