To say Lois O’Hara is a bit of a maverick in the street art world at the moment is quite an understatement. Even if you haven’t realised it yet, you’ll have seen her work across Brighton and Hove – whether it’s the colourful crossing painted artfully in front of King’s Road Arches, the roof terrace at perennially-cool club-bar Patterns, or the top floor of artist-celebrating ice cream parlour Soft Republick, the artist has been working hard to inject a little more colour into the city.
Combining the style of University of Brighton graduate Camille Walala (who she cites as a main influence), the city’s iconic seafront, and a brand ethos which explores fluidity and the movement of time means not only are Lois’ works instantly recognisable, but that they are also perfectly matched to their surroundings, and are reflective of the artist’s passions outside of her art. “A lot of my work is about capturing fluidity,” she tells us. “It began a few years ago when I started surfing – I kept getting distracted by the movement of the water. Then when I took a step back from that to focus on my art, it kept shining through. “I still have the love of the sport, but wanted to translate it into my work. It started very literal, and then naturally turned more abstract.”
As a result, Lois’ work combines her passion for colour with her love of the sea, while capturing memories and reflecting the stopping of time; often her pieces can be seen to include drips, waves and illusions of motion – “a bit like pressing pause”. It’s a unique approach which has caught the attention of brands across town, and meant Lois was soon swapping her post-uni “obsession” with screen priting for larger commissions, with even Brighton and Hove Council having caught on. This has allowed Lois to build an impressive portfolio – particularly for someone who only graduated from university (an BA in Illustration at Bournemouth) last year – but then she’s been determined to carve her own path since she started. “During uni, I made sure I focused on my own projects instead of solely sticking to the syllabus. There were things happening in the art and design industry that we weren’t getting taught, so I felt we were always one step behind. I learnt it’s really important to work on your own things, and since I graduated it’s all happened really fast. I’ve been ‘in the game’ for a year and have really been pushing it, reaching out to people and getting to know people, and working out in my head where I can apply my work. I went for a while of staying up until 3 or 4am just scheming, working out what the next thing I wanted to do would be.”
A brief look into Lois’ Instagram page (@loisohara) offers an insight to her inner ‘scheming’. Awash with colour, each post details the process of her work – from concept all the way to execution. But it’s becoming prevalent now that the 23-year-old doesn’t have as much time to play with as she used to. While her ‘colourful crossing’ on the beach may have been her largest canvas so far, it was also the fastest to go ahead, and was completed within two weeks of being commissioned.
Her latest endeavour is allowing her to be a little more meticulous with design however, and sees the artist take on a project that’s a first of its kind in the UK. Working in conjunction with Project Backboard, Dynamic Sports Flooring, Basketball England and Valspar Paint (which she also used for the colour crossing), Lois is currently in the planning process of creating an ‘art basketball court’ – originally conceptualised in the US – in Lewes Road, with hopes it will catalyse the rejuvenation of the run-down Saunders Park area. “I don’t want it to just be an artwork and for it to end there – I really want the court to start something in that area. Hopefully it will get people to play more sport, and hopefully they’ll see it as a public art installation as well. It has the potential to appeal to lots of different people, which is amazing.”
Painting will start at the beginning of September, with Lois enlisting a few helpers along the way. With interest growing around this young artist, it appears her career is off to a bright start and just as well, as she’s far from done colouring in the city. “I want to see more colour in general in Brighton, and I hope the work I’m doing inspires other artists to do the same thing. Why not have colour everywhere? It’s such a positive thing, and I want other people to see that positivity too.”
Lois’ Top Tips for Success:
“There are a lot of artists who expect work to come to them, but you have to have a strong work ethic and be determined to put your work out there.
“All I can say is it’s just persistence. I never gave up.”
Advice for living in Brighton:
“Walk everywhere. See it all, there’s surprises everywhere.”
“Pompoko is a little gem – particularly for students.”
“For nights out, go to Patterns! Or The Tempest Inn – it has a different vibe to most other places.”