Oliver Scarlin

The life and work of Oliver Scarlin

Oliver Scarlin

Oliver Scarlin was born in Cape Town in 1987. He received a BA in visual art at the Stellenbosch Academy of Design & Photography and later completed the 3-year painting program at the Florence Academy of Art, where he won two scholarships and taught as an assistant instructor. Since his return to Cape Town in 2015 he has had 3 solo exhibitions and participated in numerous group shows in South Africa and the UK.

Oliver Scarlin paints primarily from observation and is interested in exploring perception through form and colour. He makes functional ceramic objects that feature in his still-life paintings. Beyond the formal elements of painting, the work is designed to feel intimate, and is informed by themes of memory, longing, and queer domesticity.

Exhibition: Be Still My Heart

“When I was younger I had never allowed myself to imagine that I could share a home with another man. Many years have passed since I was that scared teenager, but I am still learning ways to shed the insecurities one forms growing up queer.

I first began making functional ceramic objects in anticipation of moving in with my partner, as I desired to make our shared domestic life uniquely ours. The ceramics became a part of our home but also a part of my painting practice.

The paintings are not made to be realistic, but rather as perceptual responses to sensations of form and colour.  The still life, figure and ceramic works inform and mirror each other. Household ceramics are included in simple still-life compositions. Figure paintings of domestic scenes are in turn echoed in small ceramic figures. Textures of pottery, cloth and paper offset organic forms of fruit, seashells or exposed skin. The work examines the sensual and the mundane, the everyday and the intimate.

This body of work was begun within our first year of living together and finished during lockdown in 2020. These are paintings that have hung on our walls and objects that we place on our table. I wanted each piece – from the simplest still life to the dreamlike figures – to have a sense of stillness and gratitude.”

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