Days of Abstraction
In conversation with artist, Olivier Rasir
After coming to Australia from Belgium in 2003, Olivier Rasir has firmly established himself as one of Sydney’s most promising artists. A self-taught painter, Rasir’s signature style is abstract, with saturated colour fields and heavy oil pastels. As a process-based artist, his works come from a place of impulse and organic expression – with the final product often coming to life in the viewers imagination. He has been exhibited around Sydney and his works are held in private and corporate collections in Australia, Canada, Germany, USA, UK and Belgium.
Badlands talked to the artist about his beginnings, what inspires him, his creative process and the pieces you see in this shoot. You can see more of his work at his upcoming exhibition, ‘Wild Man Dreaming’ at Art2Muse Gallery from 24 July – 6 August.
“I first came to Australia in 1995 after I met a girl from Sydney in Belgium and came to visit. Driving through Tamarama from the airport, looking over the ocean I had a distinct voice in my head saying “this is it”! Then, in 2003, I was having fish and chips in Boundary Street, Rushcutters Bay with my dear friend Greg. He told me I should paint. At first I thought he meant painting houses but then he said “no art painting’ and I thought ok and I did.
Before I became an artist, I was working as an actor and model and both those jobs came along in the same way painting did in that they just came along naturally. I guess I used what was in front of me to make my way in a new country. I realise when I do things I want to be free, or have sensations of feeling. Modelling and acting never really gave me any lasting feelings and freedom, though. Today painting continues to feed me, it still excites me.
Just before I started painting, I was automatic writing. I get very excited and determined about new materials: I’ve painted on doors, wood panels, glass, canvas – stretched and unstretched, raw and primed. I paint with oilstick, marble dust, spray paint, industrial paint, collage, whatever catches my eye in the moment, paint with my hands. I love The Sydney Art Store and Bunnings!
I am my own inspiration to create; my thought processes and my emotional state play themselves out on my canvases. Painting is a psychological tool to socialise with myself. But my work is also influenced by artistic movements such as the cave painting of Australian Aboriginals, Tony Tuckson, Ian Fairweather, the Punk mindset of Joseph Beuys, Dick Watkins, Joanne Mitchell and Minimalism.
I’m self-taught but I’ve never seen that as a hurdle; I’m just expressing myself and painting is my one of my vehicles. In terms of process, first I decide on the format, that’s how the adventure begins. Often it is not until I finish that the story of the work becomes obvious to me.
Photo: Joey Clark
The pieces you see in the shoot are titled ONIMA and YOUTH. ONIMA started when my sister-in-law Anne gave me some large scale industrial drop-sheets. I nailed one to the wall. The process of painting on raw canvas was exciting and unknown. When you use a new material you really have to work at it. Afterwards when the work was complete I saw that I had been unconsciously inspired by Italian Director Paolo Sorrentino’s series The Young Pope. This format opened a new way of working. The other work YOUTH was inspired by the marriage equality referendum.
As told to Courtney Thompson