Artist Oliver Clegg
33-year-old British artist Olive Clegg creates stunning, melancholic scenes using ordinary items, from Ronald McDonald toys and foosball tables to Caravaggio-esque paintings. His multidisciplinary practice encompasses painting, drawing sculpture and text-based works.
Clegg’s diverse and multi-disciplinary body of work epitomises post-medium creativity today; his monograph captures his impressive career to date.
Early Life and Education
Oliver Clegg explores the complex relationship between objecthood and materiality, images and signs, language and communication in his work with humor, melancholy and anarchy – an artful combination.
The artist depicts toys and other playthings depicted on surfaces such as old wooden drawing boards or scratched backs of small storage boxes with nostalgic objects that possess an archival quality, suggesting their significance in relation to institutions like schools or churches.
A kinetic sculpture such as Until the Cows Come Home (2021) perfectly captures this combination of opposing forces in his work. Manually spun every twenty minutes, its asymmetric composition summons images from shadowy daydreams and subconsciousness while at the same time alluding to our tendency to overplan our lives to maximize what time there is left in each day.
Clegg’s art fuses kitsch and Pop, exploring themes such as nostalgia, games, playfulness and sentimentality. His playfully complex pieces elicit responses ranging from amusement, camaraderie, joy disillusionment or anger – an experience not easily forgotten!
His artwork explores themes of childhood and fatherhood with particular relevance for Luna; for instance, in 2021 at New York’s Journal Gallery his We Cat exhibition featured playful paintings that ranged from high illusionism to cartoons made by Luna herself and even scribbles made by her daughter Luna herself.
His work is driven by a desire to create meaningful experiences. For instance, his collaboration with creative strategic design agency eyeball on a music video for Sabina Sciubba involved hand-drawn illustrations based on sketches and treatment from the artist that gave the video a more personal edge that resonated with audiences.
Achievement and Honors
Oliver Clegg’s work is marked by its playful yet surreal sense of humor. His paintings often depict toys abandoned by children or balloons decorated with cartoon characters from around the world–an element which adds charm while simultaneously stimulating thought-processes. Clegg’s art strikes an almost irresistibly appealing balance between nostalgia, melancholy, and humor, making it impossible to categorize his art as mere frivolity.
Clegg has adopted an engaging style of visual trickery in his paintings, employing illusionistic scenes painted naturally and with spatial accuracy to produce surrealist compositions such as Maggie. Here a cat’s face emerges seamlessly from an array of soft-serve ice cream cones – meant to highlight modern consumer culture’s absurdities while at the same time comment on human existence.
Clegg’s paintings draw on classical Baroque themes and chiaroscuro to explore themes of play and childhood, using red marker to recreate his younger daughter Luna’s drawings to express her unbridled joy of playing. Falcarindiol doesn’t change my opinion (2022) is one such work capturing Luna’s whimsical sense of fun through red markers reminiscent of her childhood drawings.
Other works explore private nostalgias and recurring motifs such as cats (as seen in We Cat), or deflated balloons adorned with cartoon characters; this thread connects many of his works such as Life is a Gassssss (currently on view until May 7 at Erin Cluley Gallery).
Oliver Clegg’s practice embodies post-medium creativity, with work encompassing painting, printmaking, sculpture, installation, text-based works and participatory projects. His oeuvre is expansive yet varied – often exploring culturally ambiguous material or engaging with participatory projects as primary themes.
Oliver Clegg lives in Greenpoint, Brooklyn with his wife and baby daughter. Rather than appearing at fancy magazine parties or making headlines as an art star, Oliver prefers working in his studio where he focuses on his practice.
His work encompasses painting, drawing, sculpture, installation, text-based works and participatory projects – placing him among a long lineage of artists who use multiple media in their practice.
His work exudes an irreverent playfulness that pervades all his works, such as paintings depicting abandoned children’s toys or his foosball table featuring resin figures of himself and his wife as both naked characters – creating an eye-catching composition combining nostalgia, melancholy and anarchy with whimsicality.