Seeking Alone Nowhere


Critic and writer Wang Ling on Oliver Gosling’s art.

Written for the catalogue accompanying the exhibition ‘Present Shadows’, 2008.


Today, when an artist puts brush to canvas, it is not an easy step to take; too many masters would stop him in all manner of ways and drown him in the judgements of art history.


Oliver Gosling has also experienced such difficulties, but not in the same way as anyone else; he tried subtraction as a resolution. From the very beginning he has concentrated on spatial tensions, and the expressive autonomy of materials, stepping aside from issues of representation to allow images held deep within the imagination to be returned to, challenged and balanced by the essentially abstract nature of painting, initiating therefore a process of subtraction in which images are subordinated to pictorial necessity.


Oliver Gosling has learned the significance and modus operandi of space through the study of traditional Chinese paintings and Japanese paintings, where space seems to denote power in silence. To the Oriental, space never meant emptiness. It was like a container holding all the possibilities of the actual and the mental. Thus, painting came to be the site for body and mind, object and space, surface and interior, in which the artist had to start at a new beginning every time. So it wasn’t surprising to me that when talking about his art, Oliver looked so like a child, with an honest and innocent expression on his face, whose eyes were shining and focussed on an exciting dream…….as the ancient Chinese said: “An adult remains pure in mind”.


Oliver Gosling has always paid special attention to space. On the material side of his art, he makes full use of a range of surfaces from glossy to coarse or matt and densely pigmented textures that give the paintings friction as well as a distinctive visual character. His vivid brushstrokes are wonderfully energetic and attractive. In conjunction with the rich, full, harmonious and fresh colour, an unexpected, calligraphic outline suddenly appears amazing. On the other side, the mental side, he has simplified the elements of landscape, such as mountain, water, grass or tree, to become pointers for imagination and experience within the space. Human presences emerge only to remain anonymous or be as traces, like fingerprints. The archetypal human being goes through shadow and light, sometimes showing the subconscious psychology of our loneliness, with longing and desire devoid of reason.


Oliver Gosling’s art is not primarily concerned with issues of representation, materiality or direct self-expression. He places himself within the arena of the picture plane, looking for the possibilities of space. When the compassion of loneliness confronts the joy of exploration, we immerse ourselves in a spiritual atmosphere once again. Thanks to Oliver’s art from nowhere, we find ourselves back at the origins of life, where life is just ready to start, and where art could have the purity and remoteness of unrestrained freedom.