Olivia Sterling (b. 1996) is a painting and installation artist from Peterborough, living currently in London where she received her MA in Painting at the Royal College of Art.
Olivia parallels modes of othering through painting cropped domestic scenes. These scenes focus on blackness, whiteness and racism’s small indignities and acts of violence through slapstick. Paintings are often populated with letters and lines, indicating the nearest colour to draw attention to the inanity of the language of race. Often, a white hand will be accompanied by ‘p’, for pink or peach, in contrast to the supposedly superior, pure white, which takes the form of a sticky, liquid ooze. The paintings are often set in the bathroom, kitchen or playground, private or public areas - any place where racism’s macroaggressions and microaggressions might occur. These locations also suggest a variety of transformations, from raw to cooked, dirty to clean, cool to burnt. She believes this aligns with moments of othering and certain observed social phenomena like blackfishing or new forms of the exotic. In reaction to growing up in a countryside town in England, the paintings often encapsulate Britishness by containing specific icons of the British experience ranging from Victoria sponge cakes, milk bottles, double cream, pink panther biscuits to girl guide imagery and plug sockets. Through the use of these objects she wishes to bind her experience as a black woman to living in Britain and to tether the paintings to a specific time and place.
Recent exhibitions include Without a Painter, Fitzrovia Gallery (2020) Tomorrow: London, White Cube (2020), London Grads Now, Saatchi Gallery (2020) and It Clings like a Leech, Guts Gallery (2020).