CCA Presents Really Rough Scrubbing Brush by OLIVIA STERLING
EPISODE 7: Olivia Sterling
Olivia Sterling’s (b. 1996, Peterborough) new body of work, commissioned by the CCA as part of the Episodes programme, focuses on colour-changing bodies through tanning or fake tan, on the stage of the bacchanalian British package holiday. The former transforms white bodies into a desired category of beauty, one that paradoxically runs contra to entrenched racial prejudices against darker skin tones. Figures rub food into their skins and lounge scantily clad at the poolside, the palette of colours accentuating pink skin, red sunburn, and messy traces of exuberant consumption.
Private View: Sep 17 6-9pm
Address: Goldsmiths CCA, St James’s, New Cross, London, SE14 6AD
Opening Times: Wednesday–Sunday, 12–6pm
Sterling’s graphic paintings and prints zone in on racist micro and macro-aggressions perpetuated on a daily basis in the UK, through slap-stick, absurdity, and the language of cartoons. Brightly saturated canvases depict abstracted limbs. Their interaction is variously violent and ambiguous, passing food, sticky liquids, and coded objects, or attacking each other, in actions that are the product of a systemic language of shame, exclusion, and cultural ownership. These are surrounded by letters that refer to the inane colour coding inherent to racialised discourse; the letter ‘W’ sits next to a white figures arm, and ‘B’ or ‘Br’ hover by a black limb.
Totems of British culture, such as milk bottles or brown sauce, appear as familiar touch points for the artist’s own relationship to her Black Britishness. Influenced by eighteenth century political cartoons in which the body is distorted into grotesque forms that are encoded with the societal values of the day, Sterling has developed a bold and confronting visual style that moves through dark humour to examine tropes of race and body image in the UK now.
Episodes is an ongoing series of solo presentations that span installations, screenings, discursive events and new commissions. The focus of this programme is to provide an experimental platform for emergent practices. The series has featured work by: Oisín Byrne (14 Dec 2018–3 Feb 2019), Adam Christensen (27 April–27 May 2019), Corey Hayman (17 July–11 Aug 2019), Roland Carline (16 Nov 2019–12 Jan 2020), Sophie Barber (18 Sept–25 Oct 2020) and Kobby Adi (21 May–4 July 2021). Episodes is supported by the Oak Foundation and Arts Council England.
Located on the campus of Goldsmiths, University of London, Goldsmiths Centre for Contemporary Art is London’s newest contemporary arts institution, and open to everyone. Hosting world-class exhibitions by international artists, and providing a space for established and emergent practices, the institution aims to enhance Goldsmiths’ reputation for excellence and innovation in the arts. Curatorially ambitious, the exhibition programme has been devised to encompass a wide-range of exhibition-making, including new commissions, historical presentations, survey exhibitions, and long-term research projects. These are iterated in response to the spaces that make up the institution, ranging from top lit white cubes to a converted iron-lined Victorian water tank.
The institution’s modes of address are responsive to a diverse range of audiences, through community engagement, educational projects, publications, an online journal, and roving public programme. The latter will be hosted in the Oak Foundation Gallery; a double height space set in the centre of the building. Punctured by apertures from other galleries, it spatially emphasises a porosity between artistic practice and theory. Hosting talks, performances, screenings and other events related to the wider exhibition programme, alongside a series of shorter-term exhibitions, this space is the discursive heart of the institution.
A Grade II listed building, designed by Turner Prize winners Assemble, CCA totals just under 1000m², with 700m² of gallery space, and was formerly a Victorian bathhouse. As an academic space on campus, and physically adjoining the Art Department’s studio spaces, CCA will engage with the student population of Goldsmiths University and draw on the research excellence of the college, creating a feedback loop between emergent and established practices, and academia. CCA reaches out beyond the university through staging a series of exhibitions and events with multiple entry points, appealing to inhabitants of Lewisham, London, and internationally.