When Godiva decided to commission a Belgian artist to capture the joy of its 90th birthday with a series of standout projects, painter, illustrator and artist Oli-B was a natural choice. Inspired by city life, he is renowned for making shapes and colours dance, with a play on vibrant shades.
“I take inspiration from the environment around me and the colours and forms I find in nature,” he says. “But the city is a playground; the bearer of stories that I want to tell.”
A graphic design graduate from Brussels’ ESA Saint Luc art school, Oli-B’s work spans a wide range of media, from acrylic and spray paint to screen printing. He also experiments with a wide range of surfaces, including wood, walls and even stickers. His colourful curves and abstract forms can be likened to artists such as Fernand Léger, Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró, and the pop art movement in general.
When the chance came to work with Godiva, Oli-B jumped at it. “It represents a direct link to my childhood,” he says. “I have great memories of my grandfather buying me boxes of Godiva chocolates when I was young. It is a taste that literally takes me back. I’m very happy to be associated with Godiva. We’re a small country and it is nice to partner with fellow Belgians.”
As the project was for the chocolatier’s 90th birthday, Oli-B decided “the designs should be bright and colourful with lots of positive energy. I thought to myself: ‘What’s the highlight of a celebration? Fireworks!’. I had ideas of fireworks exploding around the Godiva logo. In particular, the gold Anniversary Collection box design is really emblematic of Godiva and worked well with my designs.”
Revealing his creative process, he explains: “I always start with pencil and paper. I take photographs, build up a colour palette and work from there. Afterwards, I work on a computer and on canvas with paint. Nothing compares to opening pots of paint and seeing those colours — you almost want to eat them. You add colours that unbalance the composition and this makes you want to add another colour — it is a continuous game of balance and imbalance.”
Oli-B is drawn to big cities, having visited major capitals like New York, London, Tokyo and Paris: “I love the crowds, the activity, the feeling of lots of people around me.” But Brussels is his home. “There are a lot of creative people here — we’re like one big family. There is a lot to inspire you, from culture, art and music to fashion and food, architecture and streetscapes.”
Nothing compares to opening pots of paint and seeing those colours – you almost want to eat them
So what are his favourite Brussels hotspots? “Grand Place and Dansaert, for cool shopping, and Les Mariolles, as it looks like the old Brussels with lots of nice little streets – it’s good to move away from the centre sometimes,” he says. “There are lots of Lebanese restaurants in Brussels, which I really like, and in the Ixelles district, the Rue du Bailli has some cool bars.”
Fusing tradition with imagination, Godiva’s partnership with Oli-B is a bold, joyful celebration of both Belgian creativity and 90 years of Godiva. And, looking ahead, 2017 promises to be another busy year for Oli-B, as he plans to open a solo exhibition entitled Where the Sun Always Shines at Belgium’s Alley gallery, featuring a host of colourful new paintings, in addition to working on other top-secret projects with brands and designers.
But back to Godiva and, most importantly, Oli-B’s favourite chocolate. “Its the Lady Noir,” he says. “I love dark chocolate and vanilla. Graphically, this piece is very cool to look at because the Lady Godiva logo is so striking.”