Every once in a while, you are confronted with artworks that possess a strangely playful but vital presence. The architect of this frivolous oeuvre is Oliver Cain, an English/ New Zealand artist living in Auckland. His artworks, subverted linguistic paintings, ceramic sculptures and installations, bear a certain physicality and push the boundaries between conceptualism and post-pop art.The creative process behind Oliver’s artworks is the most important thing and therefore his artworks can be made of anything and take any form. Appropriated everyday objects transform stereotypes and famous art historical references become twisted. As proud member of the queer community, the artist uses his work to examine, question and criticize the relationships between gender, (homo)sexuality and societies’ misconceptions about those themes. But, despite what it might look like to the contemporary spectator, a purely erotic and queer reading of the work would be misguided. There is an universal profundity at play revealing itself slowly for those willing to look and feel.
His paintings is a meaningful mark making with subtle indirect gestures sending a message with symbols, shapes, sometimes obvious, sometimes not, sometimes using low-key line direction to convey a subtle message that is not realised fully. Personal interpretation gives the work personality and reflecting ideas expressed within the work. Provoking thoughts and reactions to express these intangible and intimate ideas.
The human body, abundantly (re)presented and celebrated in art history, is central to how we understand facets of identity such as gender and sexuality. People alter their bodies and style to align with or rebel against social conventions and to express messages to others around them. In this series of work, Oliver has turned an erogenous zone such as the nipples into pliable and universal material. Even more eye-catching is that every ceramic nipple is different in size and formal set-up: spray-painted in different flashy colors and framed in an old-school wooden frame. Although small in size, their intensely theatrical design remodels the complexities we face around certain parts of our body into a performative, even appreciative act. Intersubjectivity comes into play: the framed nipples are taken up, interpreted, compared or contrasted with viewers library of mental images of the self versus others. As subconscious voyeurists of our own body we explore and perceive our uniqueness while celebrating the delicacy of differentiation.The framed nipple opens the door to a revived discussion on the convention of the beauty and sex(iness) and offers a new vision of the human body: imperfect, irregular, in constant evolution and dissolution but enchanting and remarkable. His fascination with representations of the body make conscious in a visual sense the very relationship between different ways of seeing. But only looking, no touching Oliver said.
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