Evi O embodies what it is to be a contemporary creative in 2021. She is an award-winning book designer who is now writing her own book; she runs a branding business while producing sell-out art exhibitions. Colourful in her design life her personal style is rigorously monochromatic. We love her for her contradictions.

You run a graphic design business Evi O Studio, you are an artist and you are also writing a book - how do all these skills/hobbies/obsessions fit together?

I think I have come to terms with the fact that I am the personality type that constantly need to create, and for me to create well, I need purpose.

People would say I manage to turn anything I do into work – which makes me question what work means to me personally.

The design studio is perhaps the most selfless creative purpose. I channel creativity to help our clients and also to grow the studio family. Just like a healthy home it is full of positive energy on all fronts. As a team, clients and designers swap ideas and knowledge, and we kick goals and deadlines daily. It’s very stimulating and with the diverse projects coming in, it’s really perfect for my whirring brain.

The art practice is the opposite – it’s solitary. It did start as a weekend activity, until I started showing and committed to be represented by Saint Cloche Gallery. Having said that, the art practice hasn’t changed its place in my life, it’s still the most intimate, and it’s purely driven by passion, just the scale has perhaps changed. Having exhibitions booked in the calendar pushes me to keep exploring.

The book writing probably sounds natural given that I work in publishing, but it is not actually. I never thought I would write a book on adventuring. The book is called ‘Day Trip Sydney,’ and this project came around because Andrew, my partner, started joining me on my weekend bushwalks, and we thought it would be fun to turn this into a creative project. Long story short, within a month of pitching to Thames & Hudson, we got a book deal and suddenly we were two creatives with a dog, walking and discovering nature. The project has definitely accessed a different part of my brain that I’ve never really explored. And even though it sounds like I work all the time, the book means that there’s no excuse for me to not go out and discover things in nature in my downtime, which, surprise, injected new inspiration into the design studio and the art practice. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are more creative outcomes from doing ‘Day Trip’ (out July 7th in all good bookstores).

Would we have heard of any of your clients?

I think so, we hope so. We work with a lot of clients that are part of everyday living. Our studio is perhaps best known for our book design, so I won’t be surprised if you have a few on your bookshelves. As well as chefs and cooks, we also work with artists, gardeners, architects, interior designers, food and lifestyle brands, with projects ranging from books, branding and sometimes products. If we have to name names, our latest subjects include Ken Done, Fred’s Danielle Alvarez, Stitch Coffee, Two Good Co., Cultiver, Planthunter, BTS and Darlinghurst Theatre Company.

"I guess as humans we don’t stop questioning and that is perhaps the quest in one’s life."

You have an upcoming exhibition with Saint Cloche Gallery with whom you have had a long history and great success. What is the theme of this exhibition and tell us some of the name of the works?

The exhibition is called ‘Giant’ and would be my second solo show in Sydney, following on my first solo at Sydney Contemporary 2019. In the past year or so I did a lot of investigating of the inside and outside, the sides that are light and dark, and this resulted on an observational body of work that questions the ‘big’ matters in life. It is definitely existential. I guess as humans we don’t stop questioning and that is perhaps the quest in one’s life. The pieces are named to suggest a narrative, asking audience to ponder upon their own interpretation, like “The Transformative Blue Bird Performing an Apparition”, “The Inquisitive Bull in the land of Giants” and  “Sun above the Land of Everyone”. The theme ‘Giant’ also means I’ve done bigger pieces…. literally.

When painting, what is your creative process?

First, came the idea or topic I want to explore. I’d then propose the idea to Kitty Clark, Saint Cloche Gallery Director, to be discussed and morphed if needed. Once it’s a go, an exhibition is then booked. She has been an important part in the organic progression of my art practice and as an artist that sounding board is so important because often it’s just you and your own thoughts and that can be limiting.

Then come the research in different forms. I tend to get insights through conversations, experiences, and of course, literature and films. Once I feel like I have a few points to explore, then shapes and colours start to form in my head. I tend to sit on things for a bit before an intense session of sketching, exploring forms and colour palettes happen. Following that I break the creative process with getting all the logistics done, including canvas prep, ordering frames and packaging. Painting is always a bit daunting to start with but once I’m in it, I enter a state of rush and before you know it the pieces are lined up ready to be framed, then catalogued, then shared with the world. I’d then sit for a bit before starting the next thing.

For someone whose art is colourful your style tends towards the sombre. What appeals to you now in a garment?

These days I celebrate materials, cuts and detailing more. I’ve been consciously not buying any colours but black or white (I did cheat with some greys and champagnes) in the last two years. Part of me feels that life gets simplified in that department with colour limitations and I feel more grounded. Weird thing to say, really!


How much does fabric, detailing, fit, comfort matter?

Comfort is probably the most important thing, with quality of fabric second. Detailing is highly appreciated and fit is a tricky conversation. Not many brands fit me, so sometimes I do compromise and wear the over-sized look when I find pieces that are too large – the chunky boots help. This often happens with treasures found in the men-dept.

If your clothes could speak what would they say about you?

Think they would say what I value in life. Honesty, simplicity with generous touch of frivolity.


You came to Australia from Indonesia to study - how has your personal style shifted from the girl who arrived here? Can you describe her?

Those who’s known me for years would say I’ve found my style. My wardrobe used to be more varied, simply because I was still in my formative years, and now I know more of myself, the wardrobe is also more curated. It’s all a never-ending process. I go through big cycles every 10 years or so.

Tell us about Henri?

Henri is a grey brindle whippet that has been a very loyal, yet stubborn, companion since 2017. I adopted him as a pup and even though I failed to raise an obedient dog, his charming demeanour wins him a lot of human friends. He’s a bit of a time-keeper in my life too, waking up and nagging to leave the office at the exact time every day.


What are his best traits and what are his worst?

He’s the most affectionate dog I’ve met, he has a lot of love to share. His worst trait is probably his best trait, he knows how to manipulate with that sweet face.

What is your ideal weekend?

One day in nature, one day in bed.


Tell us the details of the exhibition opening?

It will open for public on the 25th February at Saint Cloche Gallery, Paddington. As part of Art Month, the gallery will open late on the 27th, and I’m also making that Saturday a Friends & Family day, so come and say hello. Hope to see you there!

Photography: Martyn Thompson

Words: Karen McCartney