Vaughan Oliver

Header photo: Detail from poster for This Mortal Coil album, Filigree & Shadow & typography from the ultimate Vaughan Oliver design book, This Rimy River

All images Vaughan Oliver & v23

Biography.    Death

v23 - Modern Calendar 96 (UK) (1995)

Vaughan Oliver/v23 - Slightly off the Ground UK Original Exhibition Poster (2007)

2007 Exhibition Review

Cocteau Twins - Treasure CD, Album, Remastered, Reissue (UK) (2003)

Gallery    v23 Books

v23 Posters

Cocteau Twins - Aikea-Guinea UK 12" Vinyl (1985)

Cocteau Twins - Blue Bell Knoll UK LP Vinyl (1988)

Cocteau Twins - Lullabies UK 12" Vinyl (1982)

Cocteau Twins - Peppermint Pig UK 12" Vinyl (1983)

Cocteau Twins - The Spangle Maker UK 12" Vinyl (1984)

Cocteau Twins - Sunburst And Snowblind UK 12" Vinyl (1983)

Cocteau Twins - Tiny Dynamine Japanese 4 track 12" Vinyl (1985)

4.A.D. - Lonely Is An Eyesore UK Vinyl LP (1987)

The Pixies - Gigantic UK 12" Vinyl (1988)

David Sylvian

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V A U G H A N   O L I V E R

4ad posters @ (direct link to posters)

Vaughan Oliver Portraitv23 - Modern Calendar 96 (UK) (1995)

How could any one talk about graphic design of the last 20 years without mentioning something about Vaughan Oliver (born September 12, 1957 in Sedgefield, England) Oliver's works focuses on sobriety and weirdness, but its weirdness has a uniqueness that is just plain beautiful. Without doubt, he is one of the most important graphic designers to come out of Britain in the last 20 years and his influence can be seen far and wide.

With the photographer, Nigel Grierson, Oliver set up the design company, 23 envelope in the early 80s; rechristened v23) in 1988 after Grierson's departure. Within its own structure, he deeply influenced the sleeve design area during the 80'. Mostly working for the label 4AD, designing sleeves for Ultra Vivid Scene, Clan of Xymox, Frank Black, Pixies, Cocteau Twins, This Mortal Coil (see their Filigree & Shadow cover), Robert Fripp and many others, Vaughan Oliver has even a wider palette than Brody or Emigre's people: he is not just a graphist; he is a real art director, either skilled for graphic design or typography than for photography. Working with talented photographers, he masters the whole process, from conceiving pictures to the final lay-out.

4ad posters @ (direct link to posters)

David Sylvian Secrets of the Beehive CDHis & v23's work with the legenday ambient guru, David Sylvian is now mythical and the closest that pop and art have ever been. It is a collaboration that continued right up to the early 2000s and beyond (through Chris Bigg's work for the sublime 2015 book Hypergraphia).

4ad posters @ (direct link to posters)

See the Sylvian album covers such as:

Secrets of the Beehive and the accompanying poster

To: Approaching Silence

Also, books such as Trophies I & Trophies II and Oliver's design is an intregal and obvious part of the such an extent that the work of both artists becomes one completely.

This Mortal Coil Filigree & Shadow CDIn his 2001 book, Visceral Pleasures, Oliver explores the different phases of his career. At their most expressive and inventive, his graphic images embody his intense responses as a listener, plunging the viewer into a world of visceral sensation and pleasure.

Oliver and v23, which included Chris Bigg, had their offices in Wandsworth, South London.

v23 disbanded in 2008 with Oliver and Bigg going their seperate ways. Bigg worked extensively with Sylvian's new label, SamadhiSound (2002 - 15) among others, as well as lecturing. Oliver turned to lecturing as well as occasionally keeping his hand in with graphic design. From January 2015 he has been the creative lead at the University of Greenwich as well as continuing as a visiting professor at UCA, Epsom. He is also an AGI member

He resides in Epsom, Surrey.

It was announced on Sun 29 Dec 2019 that he had passed away with his partner by his side. No cause of death was given.

He was just 62.


Vaughan Oliver Poster

Slightly off the Ground - Exhibition

18 January - 3 March 2007
Tue - Fri 12 - 6pm, Sat 12 - 4pm, Entry FREE

Stanley Picker Gallery
Kingston University
Knights Park
Kingston upon Thames

  • The blurb reads:

    'Slightly off the Ground presents (Vaughan Oliver's) personal selection of his iconic music posters from early works with 4AD to the present day, the exhibition providing a rare overview of the themes and influences that underpin the practice of this inspirational graphic alchemist. The specially devised gallery installation, evocative of the street setting where the posters would have been first encountered, is designed together with his long term collaborator Chris Bigg, and will be sound-tracked by the music that inspired the resulting designs.'

    With that in mind I headed off to the Stanley Picker Gallery in Kingston looking forward to this exhibition. And the charming little gallery by the Hogsmill River is as leafy picturesque as leafy picturesque can be for a place just a 10 minute walk from 'bloody hell, parking is sheer hell' city that is otherwise known as Kingston town centre. But the Hogsmill River isn't the River Thames: it's technically a river I guess but makes a damned good impression of a puffed-up stream. And that is the problem in a nutshell. In my opinion a Vaughan Oliver exhibition should be at a gallery by the River Thames and not by the Hogsmill (Tate Britain methinks, after all Rachel Whiteread had Embankment exhibited at the Tate's gigantic Turbine Hall in 2005 and that was just s ... oh, that's another story).

    I know this misses the point of the exhibition. This is an intimate affair and these are a few posters from Olver's personal collection but there just aren't enough of them, nor is the place big enough to possible do justice to his career to date. For example I for one would loved to have seen some of the designs for the acclaimed David Sylvian Trophies II book for which v23 did the design. That book is breathtakingly, achingly, beautiful. But probaly the most disappointing result from the longterm collaboration with the once "most beautiful man in the world", Darshan, is what they have chosen to show here. I know that there were poster designs for Trophies II and, lordy, they took the breath away.

    At the end of the day, Oliver is the most important graphic designer of the last 25 years. There are probaly around 40 designs maximum on show here and that is not enough. I know it is free admission and I know what is there is beautifully presented but there is just not enough of it. I for one would have paid an admission price to see a lot more works. And it wasn't a problem for me as I don't live that far away but anybody travelling a long distance would be very disappointed at the brevity on what's on show here. Indeed, you can whizz around what amounts to one largish room in five minutes.

    The exhibition catalogue is great though. When I enquired about the exhibition's signed limited edition print from the sales assistant who is located on a ledge above the gallery floor I was told that they no longer had it there but check the gallery's website to order it. So I did and you can't order it on the website!

    So all in all, this could have been done much better. Really, it's just for the most fanatical of Vaughan Oliver/v23 fans.

    Exhibition poster

    Available: Vaughan Oliver books @ (direct link to books - sometimes you can find a bargain)

    V A U G H A N   O L I V E R

  • Facing the Other Way: The Story of 4AD

  • Vaughan Oliver:
    This Rimy River - Graphic Works 1988-94

  • Vaughan Oliver:
    Visceral Pleasures

    V A U G H A N   O L I V E R

    Biography.   2007 Exhibition Review

    Cocteau Twins - Treasure CD, Album, Remastered, Reissue (UK) (2003)

    Gallery    v23 Books

    v23 Posters    v23 Vinyl

    David Sylvian

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