Kerrie Oliver was born in New South Wales, Australia and obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts from COFA, University of New South Wales (now UNSW Art & Design). Kerrie’s work has been shown in Korea, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada. While her original passion is for printmaking, she draws upon her mastery of that medium — along with photography, painting and drawing — to examine her relationship to the natural environment.
In 2014, Kerrie and her family relocated to Saskatchewan, Canada, from New South Wales, Australia. Having experienced summers of 40ºc to the Canadian Prairies in winter, at times -40ºc. While this was a shock to her system, the visual contrast was provocative. The endless, pristine Saskatchewan plains covered in luminous white powder blended seamlessly into winter skies, in contrast to the sweltering earth tones of her homeland. Having never experienced the true change of seasons, she was entranced as the snow-covered landscape revealed once-hidden shapes and colours as winter finally melted into Spring.
Kerrie began to appreciate the common characteristics of her native and adoptive home. Both are isolated geographies with extreme climatic conditions that evoke beauty and fear. Long before relocating, Kerrie began shifting away from printmaking. The birth of her sons made her use of etching’s typically toxic chemicals unsustainable. At first she turned to digital photography, but after a time, she longed to get her hands dirty again. This led Kerrie back to working on paper, specifically watercolour and acrylics. As she applied layers of paint wash, she revelled in the tactile pleasure of watching the medium marry with pulp. Kerrie could have stopped at washes, but felt compelled to add small, deliberate marks using coloured pencils and graphite.
Rather than rendering landscapes in a literal way, Kerrie draws upon her memories of a particular landscape to suggest geographical fragments. She’s as interested in conveying her emotional and psychological landscape, alluding to a sense of displacement, personal fears, quiet solitude, and intimacy with her environment.
Currently, Kerrie continues to explore these materials by extending her work onto board and canvas. From this experimentation has emerged a new thematic focus, which she has titled “Under the Onkaparinga”. Onkaparinga is the brand name of her childhood blanket. Like so many children, she turned to this blanket as a source of comfort and imaginative play. She literally lived beneath her Onkaparinga, and even treated it as an extended body part. Because she was not allowed to have long hair, for example, she draped the blanket on her head and tied socks on each side to create ponytails and the sensation of having her own lengthy locks. A number of her latest drawing titles allude to the ways in which a childhood blanket can be both a powerful prop and source of creativity, as well as a symbol of the confusing experiences that children must navigate: security and insecurity; connection and isolation; expressing emotions and repressing them.
As Kerrie continues to work across both genres of landscape and figurative, she continues to discover that one heavily informs the other.