Most people associate Dinosaur Designs with brightly coloured resin jewellery, but it’s a lesser known fact that the duo behind one of Australia’s most enduring brands are prolific visual artists.
“We apply the same visual language, imagination and rigour to whatever we are doing,” says Stephen Ormandy. “I don’t put on my design hat or my art hat; I tackle each project the same way.”
The artwork of Stephen Ormandy and Louise Olsen is now on show in Olsen Ormandy: a creative force, a new exhibition at the Newcastle Art Gallery. Spanning 30 years of their art practice and creations for Dinosaur Designs, it includes sculptures, installations, new paintings and work from their substantial archive.
“Louise and Stephen’s work is marked by a strong relationship between colour and form, through a shared language evident when they collaborate, and in variations and distinctions that come to the fore in their individual pieces,” says Newcastle Art Gallery director Lauretta Morton.
The 50 pieces transition effortlessly across media – Ormandy’s from large-scale paintings to sculptures in wood and aluminum to a giant tapestry; Olsen’s from paintings to giant-sized oils on linen to brass wall sculptures. Even though they are the work of two artists the pieces sit effortlessly in the space.
Then there is the resin work – Ormandy’s huge totems and a set of eight oversize disks in colours so vivid they appear to hum. The former were first shown at London Design Week 2016, the latter were commissioned for the fifth anniversary of Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art.
“Resin has a wonderful viscous fluidity that allows us to cross the boundaries of sculpture and painting to create pieces we think of as three-dimensional poems,” says Olsen.
In counterpoint to Ormandy’s hard-edge abstractions is a series of delicate, inky canvases Olsen has painted over the past 12 months in her studio at the home of her 90-year-old artist father, John Olsen, in Glenquarry in the NSW Southern Highlands.
“We’re constantly referred to as designers but we feel that’s not quite what we are,” says Olsen. “We went to art school and we only ever started Dinosaur Designs to support our painting, so we think like artists and approach the process of creating like artists. This exhibition is about going back to where we’ve always wanted to be.”
Olsen and Ormandy met in 1993 as students at Sydney’s City Art Institute (now NSW University’s faculty of art and design), and started out selling their resin jewellery at a Sydney market. Today Dinosaur Designs has eight stores, including one in London and one in New York, and employs nearly 90 people.
Their daughter, Camille Ormandy-Olsen, has followed in their footsteps to study art at UNSW Art & Design and is already receiving commissions for her portraiture.
“We’re all getting involved now,” laughs Ormandy.
NEED TO KNOW
Olsen Ormandy: a creative force is at the Newcastle Art Gallery until February 17. Address 1 Laman Street, Cooks Hill. Tel (02) 4974 5100.