Olivia Sterling, Yowl installation view.
Olivia Sterling, Yowl installation view.
Olivia Sterling, Yowl installation view.
Olivia Sterling, Yowl installation view.
Olivia Sterling, Hand Over, 2021 (Acrylic on canvas, 55 x 45 cm).
Olivia Sterling, Hand Over, 2021 (Acrylic on canvas, 55 x 45 cm).
Olivia Sterling, Hand Over (detail), 2021 (Acrylic on canvas, 55 x 45 cm).
Olivia Sterling, Yowl installation view.
Olivia Sterling, Yowl installation view.
Olivia Sterling, Rödhårig, 2022 (Acrylic on linen, 120 x 100 cm).
Olivia Sterling, Rödhårig (detail), 2022 (Acrylic on linen, 120 x 100 cm).
Olivia Sterling, Yowl installation view.
Olivia Sterling, Minor Inconveniences, 2022 (Acrylic on linen, 120 x 100 cm).
Olivia Sterling, Minor Inconveniences (detail), 2022 (Acrylic on linen, 120 x 100 cm).
Olivia Sterling, A Heavy Tread, 2022 (Acrylic on linen, 120 x 100 cm).
Olivia Sterling, A Heavy Tread (detail), 2022 (Acrylic on linen, 120 x 100 cm).
Olivia Sterling, Yowl installation view.
Olivia Sterling, Our General Aims, 2022 (Acrylic on canvas, 190 x 150 cm).
Olivia Sterling, Our General Aims, 2022 (Acrylic on canvas, 190 x 150 cm).
Olivia Sterling, Our General Aims (detail), 2022 (Acrylic on canvas, 190 x 150 cm).
Olivia Sterling, Yowl installation view.
Olivia Sterling, All Sorts of Wrong (Whomever Draws a King), 2022 (Acrylic on canvas, 190 x 150 cm).
Olivia Sterling, All Sorts of Wrong (Whomever Draws a King), 2022 (Acrylic on canvas, 190 x 150 cm).
Olivia Sterling, All Sorts of Wrong (Whomever Draws a King) (detail), 2022 (Acrylic on canvas, 190 x 150 cm).
Olivia Sterling, Yowl installation view.
Olivia Sterling, Yowl installation view.
Olivia Sterling, Yowl installation view.
Olivia Sterling, Yowl installation view.
Olivia Sterling, Yowl installation view.
Olivia Sterling, Yowl installation view.
Olivia Sterling, Hand Over, 2021 (Acrylic on canvas, 55 x 45 cm).
Olivia Sterling, Hand Over, 2021 (Acrylic on canvas, 55 x 45 cm).
Olivia Sterling, Hand Over (detail), 2021 (Acrylic on canvas, 55 x 45 cm).
Olivia Sterling, Yowl installation view.
Olivia Sterling, Yowl installation view.
Olivia Sterling, Rödhårig, 2022 (Acrylic on linen, 120 x 100 cm).
Olivia Sterling, Rödhårig (detail), 2022 (Acrylic on linen, 120 x 100 cm).
Olivia Sterling, Yowl installation view.
Olivia Sterling, Minor Inconveniences, 2022 (Acrylic on linen, 120 x 100 cm).
Olivia Sterling, Minor Inconveniences (detail), 2022 (Acrylic on linen, 120 x 100 cm).
Olivia Sterling, A Heavy Tread, 2022 (Acrylic on linen, 120 x 100 cm).
Olivia Sterling, A Heavy Tread (detail), 2022 (Acrylic on linen, 120 x 100 cm).
Olivia Sterling, Yowl installation view.
Olivia Sterling, Our General Aims, 2022 (Acrylic on canvas, 190 x 150 cm).
Olivia Sterling, Our General Aims, 2022 (Acrylic on canvas, 190 x 150 cm).
Olivia Sterling, Our General Aims (detail), 2022 (Acrylic on canvas, 190 x 150 cm).
Olivia Sterling, Yowl installation view.
Olivia Sterling, All Sorts of Wrong (Whomever Draws a King), 2022 (Acrylic on canvas, 190 x 150 cm).
Olivia Sterling, All Sorts of Wrong (Whomever Draws a King), 2022 (Acrylic on canvas, 190 x 150 cm).
Olivia Sterling, All Sorts of Wrong (Whomever Draws a King) (detail), 2022 (Acrylic on canvas, 190 x 150 cm).
Olivia Sterling, Yowl installation view.
Olivia Sterling, Yowl installation view.

Olivia Sterling
Yowl
NEVVEN GÖTEBORG
Jan 20 — Feb 27, 2022

  • “The societal default
    is white superiority
    and we are fed
    a steady diet of it
    24/7” (1)

     

    To yowl is to utter a loud long cry of grief, pain, or distress. For Olivia Sterling it is the sound of the white person that openly laments the loss of its privileges in the face of societal progression in diversity and inclusion. In her new body of work the British artist not only wants us to see how whiteness looks like, a recurring topos in her work, but also metaphorically present us with how it sounds like. Inspired by a specific experience of one of these casual, yet chilling, remarks (namely the recount of privileged parents scoffing at how it is getting harder for their non-marginalised children to get into prestigious universities in the United Kingdom), in Yowl, Sterling depicts these utterances in all their crudeness while, with her signature slapstick style, she exposes them as what they are, yowling cries for attention, so eye roll-inducing to become bitterly laughable.

    Sterling’s works draw the viewer in with the catchy visual language of cartoons, with their humorous soft features and flashy colours, but at a second glance the paintings begin to reveal a violence that seeps and creeps in the colourful images. Bouncy slaps, soft-flesh grabs, knife strikes might at first appear innocuous in this versicoloured fantasy, but once in the seen, the cel animated viciousness starts to feel very real. In Yowl, Sterling chooses to continue placing her characters into familiar settings and surround them with everyday objects. If in previous series the set up was shared tables and meals, vignettes of joyful togetherness where hidden micro and macro-aggressions, unwanted touching and grabbing, and othering dynamics were served along with white glazed pastry and chocolate smudged hands. Here, however, the artist chooses to zoom further in, focusing her attention only on the hands of the characters interacting with one another, while depicting in full colour the whiny sound of white fragility. In these paintings, white hands, often tagged by Sterling with playful looking letters corresponding to their colour (as W for white, P for pink), are not only surrounded by hands marked as Bs or Ys, but even more they appear to be wounded: bitten by a snake, stabbed by a knife or pierced with an arrow. These works want to be literal visual representations of what the artist herself describes as the “illogical arguments used to gaslight marginalised people using certain stock sentences repeated in order to lessen the blow of discrimination.”

    If it is the gift of few painters to be able to have such a personal and powerfully attracting painterly language as Olivia Sterling does, it is an ability of even fewer to be able to draw the public closer in such a compelling way when dealing with identity politics. With an artistic discourse captivatingly intersecting with the most contemporary manifestations of figurative painting, she manages to entice and not deter, to excite and attract, and by doing so she pushes the viewers to ask themselves questions that would have not aroused such an interest otherwise. Her work captures, intrigues, and then surprises the still very white and middle/upper-class public of art galleries and institutions confronting them with an uncomfortable reality which is not very often debated, even by the woke Europeans. In Yowl, with her secure brush strokes and witty compositions, Sterling presents us with a newly produced series of works that are both painterly and politically relevant at the same time. As she momentarily blurs, but only in order to highlight, the borders between violence and play, her magnetic canvases assure that we are watching, while the veil of innocence under which everyday racism hides drops in front of our eyes.

     

    Alina Vergnano & Mattia Lullini

     

    (1) Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility and the Rules of Engagement, p. 1.

  • “The societal default
    is white superiority
    and we are fed
    a steady diet of it
    24/7” (1)

     

    To yowl is to utter a loud long cry of grief, pain, or distress. For Olivia Sterling it is the sound of the white person that openly laments the loss of its privileges in the face of societal progression in diversity and inclusion. In her new body of work the British artist not only wants us to see how whiteness looks like, a recurring topos in her work, but also metaphorically present us with how it sounds like. Inspired by a specific experience of one of these casual, yet chilling, remarks (namely the recount of privileged parents scoffing at how it is getting harder for their non-marginalised children to get into prestigious universities in the United Kingdom), in Yowl, Sterling depicts these utterances in all their crudeness while, with her signature slapstick style, she exposes them as what they are, yowling cries for attention, so eye roll-inducing to become bitterly laughable.

    Sterling’s works draw the viewer in with the catchy visual language of cartoons, with their humorous soft features and flashy colours, but at a second glance the paintings begin to reveal a violence that seeps and creeps in the colourful images. Bouncy slaps, soft-flesh grabs, knife strikes might at first appear innocuous in this versicoloured fantasy, but once in the seen, the cel animated viciousness starts to feel very real. In Yowl, Sterling chooses to continue placing her characters into familiar settings and surround them with everyday objects. If in previous series the set up was shared tables and meals, vignettes of joyful togetherness where hidden micro and macro-aggressions, unwanted touching and grabbing, and othering dynamics were served along with white glazed pastry and chocolate smudged hands. Here, however, the artist chooses to zoom further in, focusing her attention only on the hands of the characters interacting with one another, while depicting in full colour the whiny sound of white fragility. In these paintings, white hands, often tagged by Sterling with playful looking letters corresponding to their colour (as W for white, P for pink), are not only surrounded by hands marked as Bs or Ys, but even more they appear to be wounded: bitten by a snake, stabbed by a knife or pierced with an arrow. These works want to be literal visual representations of what the artist herself describes as the “illogical arguments used to gaslight marginalised people using certain stock sentences repeated in order to lessen the blow of discrimination.”

    If it is the gift of few painters to be able to have such a personal and powerfully attracting painterly language as Olivia Sterling does, it is an ability of even fewer to be able to draw the public closer in such a compelling way when dealing with identity politics. With an artistic discourse captivatingly intersecting with the most contemporary manifestations of figurative painting, she manages to entice and not deter, to excite and attract, and by doing so she pushes the viewers to ask themselves questions that would have not aroused such an interest otherwise. Her work captures, intrigues, and then surprises the still very white and middle/upper-class public of art galleries and institutions confronting them with an uncomfortable reality which is not very often debated, even by the woke Europeans. In Yowl, with her secure brush strokes and witty compositions, Sterling presents us with a newly produced series of works that are both painterly and politically relevant at the same time. As she momentarily blurs, but only in order to highlight, the borders between violence and play, her magnetic canvases assure that we are watching, while the veil of innocence under which everyday racism hides drops in front of our eyes.

     

    Alina Vergnano & Mattia Lullini

     

    (1) Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility and the Rules of Engagement, p. 1.


  • Download the Full Press Release

  • Press

    Olivia Sterling at NEVVEN, SE
    Daily Lazy — Feb 22, 2022

    Olivia Sterling at NEVVEN
    Artmirror — Feb 19, 2022

    Månadens konstlista: Clint Eastwood, akvarell och miljöförstöring
    Göteborgs Posten — Feb 10, 2022

    Olivia Sterling at NEVVEN, Göteborg
    Contemporary Art Library — Feb 5, 2022

    Olivia Sterling - Yowl
    KubaParis — Feb 4, 2022

    Kulturguiden våren 2022 - Göteborg
    Nöjesguiden — Jan 24, 2022

To top