Olivia Sterling

Overview

Olivia Sterling parallels modes of othering through painting cropped domestic scenes. These scenes focus on blackness, whiteness, and racism's small indignities and violence through a "slapstick" sensibility.

Olivia Sterling parallels modes of othering through painting cropped domestic scenes. These scenes focus on blackness, whiteness, and racism’s small indignities and violence through a “slapstick” sensibility. Paintings are often populated with letters and lines, regularly indicating the nearest colour to draw attention to the inanity of the language of race. One might see a “white” hand accompanied by ‘p’, for pink or peach, in contrast to the supposedly superior, pure white, which takes the form of a sticky, liquid ooze.

 

Her paintings are often set in bathrooms, kitchens, and playgrounds, private or public areas — any place where racism’s macro- and microaggressions might occur. These locations also suggest a variety of transformations, from raw to cooked, dirty to clean, cool to burnt. Sterling believes this aligns with moments of othering and certain observed social phenomena like blackfishing or new modes of exoticization. 

 

In reaction to growing up in a countryside town in England, Olivia Sterling’s paintings often reference British identity by containing specific icons of the British experience, ranging from Victoria sponge cakes, milk bottles, double cream, and Pink Panther biscuits to Girl Guides imagery and plug sockets. Through the use of these objects she wishes to bind her experience as a black woman to its inalienable Britishness, and to tether the paintings to a specific time and place. 

 

 

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