Olivia Sterling British, b. 1996

Born in Peterborough in 1996 and graduating from the RCA in 2020, Olivia Sterling has carved out a distinctive niche in using paint to address questions of blackness and whiteness in twenty-first century Britain. Colour, in her work, is both hedonism and neurosis. Her Day-Glo pigments and swooping, comic-book outlines are a raucous pleasure for the eyes; yet her signature ‘tagging’ of colour blocks with letters and numbers points to the obsessive compartmentalisation of skin tones and identities, a minefield of labels that invokes the shadow of racialised discourse. The use of everyday settings and subjects – which seem to spill over the edges of Sterling’s zoomed-in frames – points to the subtle ways in which even anodyne objects and scenes are encoded with structures of othering and difference, while stressing the fact that this is a drama that continues beyond the canvas.


Olivia Sterling graduated with an MA in painting from the Royal College of Art, London, 2020.  Forthcoming exhibitions include White Bread (Solo), Cob Gallery, London, UK (2021); Really Rougn Scrubbing Brush, CCA Goldsmiths, London, UK (2021). Selected solo exhibitions include, It Clings like a Leech, Guts Gallery, London, UK (2020); A Cure for Nose Bleeds, Marriots Way, Reepham, Norfolk, UK (2020).  Selected Group exhibitions include A Rudimentary Education, Art Lacuna, London, UK (2020); Love your symptom, but not too much, Blank Projects, Cape Town, South Africa, (2020); Without a Painter, Fitzrovia Gallery, London, UK (2020);  Snapshot, RCA Hockney Gallery, London, UK (2020); WIP, Sackler, RCA (2018) and Tomorrow: London, White Cube, Online (2020).  Residences include the HQI Summer residency, London, UK 2020 and Extended Contexts, National Trust IIam, UK, 2016. 


Sterling was awarded the Pro Vice-Chancellor / Dean's Award for her Degree Show Exhibition, BA of Fine Art, University of Derby, 2018.