Oli Mumby

Oli Mumby on his artistic journey: “I decided that it was time to start scratching that itch”

For our artist spotlight this month, Exposed sat down with Oli Mumby to talk about his creative influences and what advice he would give to aspiring artists.

How did your artistic journey begin?
I studied art and design at college and university in the late 90s before beginning my career as an advertising art director in London soon after, so I’ve been on an artistic journey for as long as I can remember. It’s only in the last five years or so, however, that my journey has pursued an additional, more personally expressive path into painting.

Frustrated with being an art lover who never made art myself, I decided that it was time to start scratching that itch. The catalyst was an image – a photograph I took – that had stuck with me from a holiday in St Ives, of a hooded boy staring out to sea from the rooftop café at Tate St. Ives. It felt to me like it was meant to be a painting, to give the image more meaning somehow. The finished painting was awarded a ‘People’s Favourite’ at the Great Sheffield Art Show then sold to a collector in America. The limited edition print I made of the painting continues to be one of my most popular, and when Tate St Ives got in touch to ask if I’d like to stock the print in the gallery shop, I decided I should probably carry on making paintings.

Were there any key creative influences on your art as you were developing your style?
I would say that my style is still in development actually – and possibly always will be! I enjoy exploring different styles and approaches, so I’m not sure I’ll ever arrive at a particular aesthetic or way of making pictures that I will decide satisfies and answers all the questions I’m asking. St Ives Hoodie, for example, is a representational acrylic painting on canvas, whereas much of my work today is more stylised and impressionistic, with increasingly stronger nods towards the abstract.

There is certainly a visual consistency about much of my work, of course. I often use collage in quite a distinctive way, for example, and work primarily in pastel, but I’m not ready to settle down and commit to a single and specific style quite yet.

“I would say I’m naturally drawn to certain images, or forms and colour all working together in a way that’s probably impossible to describe but triggers an instinctive response.”

My background and interest in graphic design has been a major influence on my work. I use collage a lot because I like the clean, graphic quality it can bring to paintings – the crispness of boundaries and contrasts.

I would say I’m naturally drawn to certain images, or forms and colour all working together in a way that’s probably impossible to describe but triggers an instinctive response. You could say it just comes down to taste and what moves me, I suppose.

My personal taste in art has always automatically and instinctively informed my own work – I make what I like, or at least try to. So, the work of artists including David Hockney, The Nash brothers, David Milne, Adrian Berg, Julian Trevelyan, to name a few, have in some way influenced my work.

You’ve said before that you’re “intrigued by the distinction between looking and truly seeing”. Could you explain this in relation to your work?
The way David Hockney talks about really looking at the world has always resonated with me. He describes looking at things with a real intensity – to understand it I think. And that the process of looking can make a thing beautiful. I don’t think many people do look at the world very closely, so the beauty that’s not immediately obvious can pass them by.

I do look at things with intensity, and like to create pictures that aim to capture what I’ve seen. Whilst my thinking might be that if I find it beautiful then surely other people will as well, my motivation is more to answer questions for myself; like, ‘will this translate to paper and shine in the way I see it?’, for instance.

I’ll often focus on a small area within a landscape – noticing the composition of forms, colours and features that are discovered when you really look.

“I do look at things with intensity, and like to create pictures that aim to capture what I’ve seen”

What are you working on at the moment? How is the rest of 2024 shaping up for you?
I’m currently working on a series of landscapes that are a little more abstract in their aesthetic. I’m exploring simplifying and distilling down forms within the landscape to create quieter and cleaner stylised depictions.

I’m increasingly thinking about printmaking as well, and keen to explore the opportunities these processes could bring to my work.

I’ll be exhibiting at Art in the Gardens this year in September in the Botanical Gardens in Sheffield, hopefully with some new work to share, so please come and say hello!

I enjoy exploring different styles and approaches, so I’m not sure I’ll ever arrive at a particular aesthetic or way of making pictures that I will decide satisfies and answers all the questions I’m asking.

What advice would you give to any aspiring artists out there?
I think one of the biggest challenges and barriers for aspiring artists is inspiration, and getting over the blank canvas mindset. To help overcome this, I would advise artists to go and see as much art as they can in shows and exhibitions. The Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield and Salts Mill in Saltaire are two of my favourite places to go when I need an inspiration fix.

I think the key to finding your style (or just finding a subject and way of working that works for you) is to just work and be productive. Make work without seeing it as needing to result in finished pieces of work – it will lead to good places eventually, if not sooner. I find that it’s only through producing work that solutions to problems will present themselves.

Facebook // olimumbyart.com




There are no comments

Add yours