Hello, could you tell us a bit about your practice?
My work considers issues around queer sexuality, gender and relationships. Often referring to it as transmedia, my practice operates between minimalist painting, sculpture, the altered object, performance, and the written word to examine queer visibility, represent a trace of the body and generate a sense of absence. I have a particular interest in the ways in which levels of abstraction are manifested between visual culture and queer lives, and the ‘in-between-ness’ of both my practice and identity. My focus predominantly lies on exploring bisexuality as an identity within queer communities.
What are you exploring at the moment?
At the moment, I’m thinking a lot about the intersections between colour theory and queer theory, particularly the ways in which we use colours as codes, and what meanings or values we assign to colours, even somewhat arbitrarily.
I’m currently mostly working through that using painting, but in the next few months I’ll be looking to do more with photography, sculpture, durational performance, and of course more writing.
Both held precious unwanted and unremarkable; oil on canvas, 110 x 154cm, 2019
Have you found there’s anything in particular that has influenced you over the years? What inspires you?
I would say that a major inspiration for me is the resilience of queer folks in the face of oppression and ignorance, not only my friends and peers around me, but people around the world, and in particular those in much harsher situations than we’re in in the UK.
Poetry has always been a major influence on all aspects of my work, not just writing. Finding poems that voiced the concerns and ideas I had in creative ways. I suppose that began with an interest in David Hockney’s 1966 suite of etchings as illustrations for poems by Constantin Cavafy; both the poems and prints are still at the forefront of my creative thinking.
These days visually, Ellsworth Kelly’s way of seeing, Agnes Martin’s use of colour, and Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ use of form play a major role in how I think about the visual work that I’m making.
Where do you work? Could you show us a picture of your working environment?
My studio is at The NewBridge Project in Carliol House in central Newcastle. I’ve been with NewBridge since I graduated from Newcastle University in 2016, originally at their old site just the other side of the block.
Oliver’s studio, NewBridge Project
What’s on your bookshelf/what are you listening to or reading at the moment?
As much as I work on multiple paintings or pieces of work at once, I like to have several books on the go. I’ve just finished reading The Friend by Sigrid Nuñez, I have At Swim, Two Boys by Jamie O’Neill on the go, as well as The Secret Lives of Colour by Kassia St.Clair and Woolgathering by Patti Smith.
My shelf is always loaded with poetry, mostly 20th century, which I’m constantly dipping in and out of. Frank O’Hara, Allen Ginsberg, Constantin Cavafy and Sylvia Plath are solid favourites.
Lately, I’ve been listening to Historian by Lucy Dacus a lot. You Won’t Get What You Want by Daughters, Stranger in the Alps by Phoebe Bridgers, and Waltz for Debby by the Bill Evans Trio have also been on in the studio plenty recently.
Could you give us between ten and twenty words that define your practice?
Colour, Visibility, Bodily, Form, Line, Hidden, Code, Poetic, Minimal, Fluid
Draw me back together; oil on canvas, 27 x 35cm, 2019
Where can people see your work?
From the 21st March to 27th April, I’ll have paintings on show at Gallagher & Turner in Newcastle, alongside work by my favourite artist Ellsworth Kelly, the inimitable Albert Irvin RA, and my good friend Josh Raz.
I also have several pieces on show at Pineapple Black in Middlesbrough until the end of the month as part of “Godfather Too”.
I’m currently planning a solo show to take place this summer in central Newcastle, too!
If anybody fancies taking me…; oil on canvas, 35 x 45cm, 2019
Our last featured artist, Mani Kambo, asked, “What do you think is the most important driving force behind making your work/staying inspired?” Could you answer Mani’s question please and think of a new one for our next artist?
Given the nature of my work, I think that as long as we’re festering in inequality and LGBTQ+ people aren’t treated as equals to everyone else (and particularly different minorities under that umbrella), then I have reason to make the work I do. I’m also always motivated by my artist peers around me though, and the wide range of brilliant artists that I see on a regular basis are a constant source of inspiration.
I’d ask of the next artist: To what extent do artistic media outside of your own practice influence what you do?