Vancouver artist's 'dream collaboration' with Louis Vuitton

Ola Volo’s Russian folklore-inspired art gets the luxury treatment

When you look at Ola Volo’s artwork, you’re instantly swept up into an enchanting world of characters and patterns.

Her Russian folklore-inspired art is symbolic, fun and whimsical, all at the same time. Each time you glance at a painting you see something new.

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You’ve probably seen the 29-year-old’s work around town. She has created designs for Starbucks, Lululemon and Telus, to name a few.

While the Kazakhstan-born, Vancouver-raised artist is used to other people getting lost in her original visual language, last month she was immersed into a new world herself.

The luxurious world of Louis Vuitton.

The muralist was chosen to paint a set of three classic Louis Vuitton trunks as part of the brand’s celebration of its 35th year in Canada.

Vancouver-raised artist tapped to paint classic Louis Vuitton trunks_1
Ola Volo was chosen to paint a set of three classic Louis Vuitton trunks as part of the brand’s celebration of its 35th year in Canada. - Riaz Oozeer

Like all of her work, the trunks tell a story. Each piece is painted with a delicate one-of-a-kind design that shares a tale about Canada’s beauty. With blues, yellows, greys and gold tones, the paintings look like they always belonged on the timeless bags.

Having moved to Montreal a year-and-a-half ago, Volo says she’ll always be a Vancouver girl at heart, and that’s represented in her designs.

“What we wanted to do was produce an experience, not just customize the pieces,” Volo explains. “I decided to go back to what I knew best, which is the West Coast… One piece is based on the ocean, the sunsets, the sailboats — the iconic Vancouver Spanish Banks and Jericho Beach.”

The second trunk symbolizes the season of fall, with flowing trees and birds. And the third trunk shows off the province’s adventurous side.

“I did the big trunk based on the West Coast wolf and adventure, with mountain scenes,” Volo says. “I think together they really become a collection.”

Swapping to tiny brushes, the detailed works took Volo a week to complete.Ola Volo works on the Louis Vuitton trunks. - Riaz Oozeer

Vancouver-raised artist tapped to paint classic Louis Vuitton trunks_4
Ola Volo was chosen to paint a set of three classic Louis Vuitton trunks as part of the brand’s celebration of its 35th year in Canada. - Riaz Oozeer

Her work was displayed as part of an exclusive Louis Vuitton auction at Integral House in Toronto in early September.

“They flew out top buyers from North America to Toronto for the private event… they wanted to bring the most exclusive one-of-a-kind bags to this exhibition so buyers had a chance to own them,” Volo says.

The auction coincided with Louis Vuitton’s Time Capsule exhibition at Union Station, which gave the public an inside look at the history of the brand.

Stepping into Integral House was an experience in itself for Volo, who describes it as a house that “had to be Googled.”

“This place was crazy,” she says. “I’m used to being constantly dirty and messy in the studio so when I got there it definitely felt like a different world and yet still very creative. Everyone was dressed head to toe in Louis Vuitton as well — so that is pretty different from what my daily lifestyle is like.”

Volo had the chance to wine and dine with the brand’s most loyal customers.

“I have so much more appreciation for these luxury brands now, what they stand for and why people are so obsessed with them,” she says. “It’s not just about the bag, it is about the whole package. It’s a lifestyle. ”

As for the trunks, they were snapped up within 20 minutes of the event opening.

“I got to meet this 80-year-old lady, who was one of their most loyal customers. She was so receptive to the work and loved it,” Volo says. “She ended up buying the entire collection.”

Ola Volo with work from her new exhibition.
Ola Volo with work from her new exhibition. - Riaz Oozeer

Since then, Volo has been working on canvas paintings for her first solo exhibition in more than four years, which opens in Vancouver this weekend.

The exhibit is inspired by Volo’s experience of having her tarot cards read.

“The pieces explore taro cards and how they intertwine with folklore and everyday life,” Volo says.

Curated by Art Rapture, the exhibition King. Queen. Lovers. Fool. runs Oct. 5 and 6 at the Settlement Building in Railtown.

eseeber@vancourier.com / @elisiaseeber

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