Another summer of love: Nostalgia. Ecstasy. Brilliance. Oli Frape

We are all in a temporal concertina. As we traverse the “new normal” squeezed between working from home screen fatigues and get back to work commuter curmudgeons we’ve forgotten one very important escape mechanism. Summer.

True, the UK tends not to have much of one but when we do it tends to be glorious, unbridled joy. Beer gardens. Barbecues. A few friends round for chilled out reminiscences into the long hot nights. Dancing your socks off sweatily in a club as all become one. But more than that Summers hark back to a collective sense memory. A place in time of comfort and expectant willful pleasure. Ice lollies on the beach and paddling pools. A time that may never have existed but in our minds. Nostalgia is enough for now, as we have to remain hopeful that these things shall soon return. It is this sense of abandonment and sensory overload that jumps out at you upon seeing the works of Oli Frape at Artcade Gallery.

Artcade is a new space within the Forum arcade. Monthly residencies for exhibition, working and sale of art. The space is a partnership between Sidney and Matilda and The University of Sheffield . I had a word with Oli about the work and the space.

Have you reflected on that time in this collection while we are in lockdown as a sense of nostalgia? 

Yes, very much so. It’s probably not at all surprising that internally I’d be thinking about escaping into the past whilst living amidst a global pandemic. I’d imagine that many people have felt similarly over this last 6 months – wistfully daydreaming of simpler times from our various pasts (for those of us privileged enough to have such good memories) I’m also self-aware enough to notice that I’m craving the collective feels of dancing in sweaty festival tents with strangers in spite of the fact that this is an experience I really only seek out infrequently at best in my normal life. (But those memories are great ones) But honestly I’ve been becoming more nostalgic over the last few years. My wife and I have been through a number of significant life events since we relocated to Sheffield from London and I think that alongside what feels like a prolonged period of social/ political unrest has certainly seen me spending time fantasising about times past – both those I’ve lived and those that happened before I was even born as some kind of escape from the present challenges. The late 80s/ early 90s rave culture (which I was just a touch too young to fully participate in) and the first summer of love (which was long before I was born) have always been described to me as being about unity, and community and love and about people creating their own small revolutions against a society that wasn’t serving them – that sounds pretty good to me right now.

Another thing I’d like to pick up on is if the effects of lockdown have influenced your use of colour or changed the way you make your art.  Have you experimented with new medium? Will you be taking lessons learned from this time forward into your existing practice?

The most significant impact that the lock-down had on this collection of works was really, simply, the window of opportunity to immerse myself.

My commercial lettering practice usually takes precedence and my self-initiated works are created in small gaps between projects (if at all) Lockdown created that time vacuum where there really wasn’t anything else I was supposed to be doing, and so I focussed fully on this collection.

The approach to the lettering had been in the works for a while, but the colours have been a voyage of discovery. It’s fair to say that I usually have to dial down certain ideas and aspects of my work when it’s for a big brand/ client and so I’ve tried to really embrace the freedom I have with these new paintings knowing that I could actually do whatever the fuck I wanted.

Little about the medium has been experimental – in fact it’s been the opposite. I’ve used materials and techniques that I’m confident with to allow my focus to be all and only about developing the form.

I’m not sure yet how this work fits into my commercial practice, although I have used a similar approach for a couple of client jobs over the last 12 months or so. I’m actually quite intrigued to see what will happen next in this respect, both in terms of how this might overlap with commercial projects but also in what new opportunities might arise.

And finally how did you find out about Art Cade and why did it appeal to you as a place to exhibit? 

Artcade is a really exciting project and I’m really pleased to be opening this season of exhibitions.

I met Al from Sidney and Matilda not long after he opened the original gallery space in Sheffield and we quickly realised we had arrived in Sheffield from similar past experiences (we both worked in studios in Hackney Wick before we left London) Credit must go to Al for suggesting this opportunity to me and having the vision to see that it might yield some interesting results.

 In terms of the venue itself, the space is great and it makes real sense to me to have something like this in that particular location. I was a student here in Sheffield many moons ago and spent plenty of time in the Forum so it’s like coming full circle in some ways. It also inspires yet more nostalgia…;)

Another Summer of Love Is on until 26th of September at Artcade Gallery and is open every Saturday 10am-6pm or by appointment artcadegalery@gmail.com.

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