Olivia Sterling

Nothing going on up top

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Year 2021
Medium Acrylic on Fabriano paper
Dimensions 29.8 x 21.6 cm

About the work

Nothing going on up top embodies otherness and the ordinary. The figure slides an ice cream sundae towards you. You analyse the colours presented: the white cream, the red cherries, and the pink hand. You may look down at your own pink hands and wonder why whiteness is white when clearly your hands are peachy, pinky and warm in colour. You may look at your brown hands and wonder why black is cast as the opposite. There isn’t that much of a difference when you think about it, which makes it all the more absurd. Safe to say, this has unsettled you and looking up at your Nanny, she sees your complex expression. Come on, all she wanted to do was to give you a pudding. It doesn’t all have to be about race.

About the artist:

Born 1996 Peterborough, Olivia Sterling lives and works in London. Graduated from BA Fine Art at The University of Derby (2018), and MA Painting at the Royal College of Art (2020).

Sterling uses painting to address questions of blackness and whiteness in twenty-first century Britain. Her work presents scenes of colourful mayhem with a nostalgic twist and signature ‘slapstick’ style, combining joyous celebration with a subtle critique of racialised ways of seeing. Blending pointed references like this into her depiction of ordinary scenes and subjects, Sterling’s work reflects on how we are confronted by racialized discourse everywhere in the everyday. Even happy or anodyne spaces are encoded with structures of othering and difference; every object, every skin tone, is assigned its place in a drama that continues beyond the edges of the canvas.

Selected solo exhibitions include It Clings like a Leech, Guts Gallery, London (2020); A Cure for Nose Bleeds, Marriots Way, Reepham (2020); and Who is civilised?, Gallery No.1, Repton (2018). Selected group exhibitions include London Grads Now, Saatchi Gallery, London (2020); Love your symptom, but not too much, Blank Projects, Cape Town (2020); 50/50, FOLD Gallery, London (2020); Tomorrow: London, White Cube, Online (2020); A Rudimentary Education, Art Lacuna, London (2020); Right Back at You, The Function Suite, London (2020); Begin Again, Guts Gallery, Online (2020); RCA2020, RCA, Online (2020); Without a Painter, Fitzrovia Gallery, London (2020); Snapshot, RCA Hockney Gallery, London (2019); and Painting from the Other Side, Dyson Gallery, London (2019).

← Georgina Starr

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