Wednesday 30 March – Thursday 12th May 2016
Oliver’s bold paintings reinterpret observed moments of rushing London life through highly charged portraits of poets, brothers and saints – most of which are born of the imagination whilst others embody those who mean most to the artist. Whether fictional or real, all exist outside specific times and places allowing the viewer space to project their own imagination and emotion to the work. Whilst based on dreams and theatre, the paintings are always accompanied by a realism of observation, adhering to the artist’s keen practice of drawing.
In ‘Nature Boy’, a man and a lady silently travel on the Overground seats and the viewer travels with them in this strange yet familiar carriage. The title refers to the Eden Ahbez song which tells the story of an encounter with a sad-eyed but wise traveller. In Oliver’s painting the lady dozes whilst the man remains alert and wake, staring across the carriage half inviting, half questioning. The world freezes around them, and either stars shine beyond or rain is forming on the window. Both look perfectly comfortable and at ease in their surrounding; trusting, knowing, willing us to join their enchanted journey.
The world of the London tube lines, and this anonymous yet shared experience, remains a motif for Oliver’s work. Through the allegory of travel and journey, we allow time to slide and the inevitable progression gives space for reverie and dream. Bodies blend together and appear as if from a mist, whilst specific details such as a hand, pattern or figure fracture the picture. The details of the face and hands are important to the artist, and the electricity of a look remains the focus of a lot of the works. All the while Oliver picks and borrows from a huge range of traditions and fantasies, from Hockney to Whitman, Ginsberg to Dylan, Wild West to Munnings. His practice explores these, and the role of the poet in this world, giving body to a group of paintings that contain more than enough individual voice.