‘In Belgium, I felt claustrophobic and restricted, the heaviness of centuries-old solidified class system,’ begins artist Olivier Rasir, who immigrated in 1995. ‘Australia has given me a sense of liberation and freedom and painting further frees me; it’s one of the vehicles I use to process my existence.’
Growing up in a rural village where sport was his main focus, at 21, Olivier took an opportunity to relocate to Australia with his then Australian partner. After initially working as a model and actor, he began painting in 2003. This passion evolved into his full-time pursuit and today he paints from a beautiful old building in a quiet street of Sydney’s Alexandria.
The artist’s experimental work is very much process driven and revolves around raw materials (oil, oilstick, acrylic, spray paint, marble dust), surface, and gestural, incidental mark making. One element informs the next in an energetic yet organic fashion, as is encapsulated in the title of his latest exhibition: Wild Man Dreaming.
‘When I’m in my studio and painting, there are no rules,’ says the 44-year-old artist. ‘My paintings are a response to myself and my environment; thought processes and emotional states play themselves out. They often seem to come from nowhere that I am conscious of – the beliefs of Indigenous people worldwide on unseen realities resonate with me. And I feel like my paintings come through me.’
Olivier’s latest exhibition opens at Art2Muse Gallery on July 24th, spanning mixed-media works on board, hand-cut raw industrial canvas, canvas and paper. Many of the imaginative depictions do feature figurative elements, in particular animals, as well as aerial views, pathways and gardens. While in selected works, the artist has also penned poetry (in French or English) as an underpainting, before overlaying blocks of colour and line work.
He typically paints both the front and back of his canvases, allowing colours to bleed through to form subtle and soft tonal effects. He’ll also often take a blade(!!) to them, folding and manipulating canvas into the work itself. The finished works are either stretched after completion or exhibited un-stretched, framed under glass – in their ‘purest form’.
‘Different mediums create challenges and I love finding ways to make something new work,’ tells Olivier. ‘Every time I start a painting I never know how it will evolve; I feel I’ve only glimpsed what it is to create!’