Oliver Gosling

Oliver Gosling

arts research University of Brighton

Scholarly biography and interests

Since graduating from the Royal College of Art in 1985, Oliver Gosling has sustained a painting practice with interests and influences that have taken him to Japan and latterly to China. Originally interested in stage design, Oliver worked at the Birmingham Hippodrome Theatre from 1976 - 1978. Initially intending to enrol at the Sadlers Wells School of Theatre Design, he was advised that his work leans more toward fine art and proceeded to study painting at the Byam Shaw School of Art, and then the Royal College of Art.

The experience and sense of the stage as a space in which mask, suggestion and allusion can be played out has underpinned aspects of his painting from the start. After graduating, Oliver worked as a visiting lecturer in various art schools including Byam Shaw School of Art and Brighton Polytechnic, whilst participating in exhibitions at galleries in the UK and Europe. In addition to this, since 1994 he has given art workshops and lectures on the art of ancient and modern cultures throughout the world at Broadmoor Special Hospital. He has also given lectures on the technical and visual ideas behind painting at the National Gallery, Tate Britain and Tate Modern and the Victoria and Albert Museum on behalf of Inscape Fine Art Study Tours.

From 1998-2000 he lived and worked in Tokyo, where he had a solo exhibition at Gallery MMG and wrote art reviews for Tokyoq, an internet magazine for what’s on in Tokyo. On returning to England he was invited to contribute annual lectures for the Oxford University Department of Continuing Education, Art History Certificate course. For the same department he has run lecture series on the history of Chinese painting, the history of Japanese art, the influence of Japanese art on Western art, and the technical and visual ideas in European and American painting from Palaeolithic art to contemporary.

In 2008 he was invited to give a major solo exhibition at Jinse Gallery, a large contemporary art gallery in the heart of Chongqing, China. Since then he has been living and working in Chongqing. A newspaper article celebrated the work of Gosling and the Huang Piao or migrant artist culture in city [download Huang Piao article as pdf].  Through the Jinse Gallery he has been represented at the Hang Zhou International Art Fair, the Shanghai International Art Fair and at other exhibitions in Zhu Hai and Chongqing. He teaches painting in the Faculty of Arts for two months every year.In Oliver Gosling's work, landscape elements, human heads and traces are pared down to a point of stillness and simplicity, to their essential ‘anonymous’ shapes; pointers and propositions to imagination and speculation, sharing whatever emotional and experiential parallels are evoked. Space is seen as an entity giving pressure and release to forms. The wish is not so much to assert but to bring the images to a point of maximum tension between absence and presence, surface and depth, solidity and fragility, shadow and form, within the simplest configurations determined by visual considerations and overriding those of narrative.

The elusiveness and mystery of emotional truth, however absurd or tragic, steers the images away from didacticism or the literal. On the cusp between meaning and meaninglessness, resolution and dissolution, at what point is presence sustained and absence acknowledged? Seminal influences have been Oriental concepts of space, certain 20th century music compositions in which notions of pause and the relation of sound to silence are explored, and the writings of John Gray and E. M. Cioran.

Gosling's empty landscapes and heads without features are imagined in a space that feels primordial and alive; conditioning, compressing, suspending, infiltrating and dissolving forms; witnesses to inception and origins. The heads are everyman and no man; the landscapes are every landscape and no landscape. Emotional truth is elusive and mysterious, however absurd or tragic. Images that are on the cusp of meaning and meaninglessness, stimulating imagination, seem closer to experience than resolution, didacticism and closure. For this reason there is often a precarious balance between suggestion and presence. Nothing is asserted, just a wish to find the maximum tension in the simplest configuration, and to share whatever emotional and experiential parallels are evoked.

Research activity 

Solo Shows


  • Jinse Gallery, Chongqing, China


  • Art First, Contemporary Art, Cork St., London. 'Heads'


  • Woodlands Art Gallery, Greenwich. 'Moments and Memories'


  • Galerie MMG, Tokyo, Japan
  • Narita Airport, Tokyo, Japan. (Sponsored by Japan Airlines)


  • Kaya Galerie d'Art, Brussels

Group shows


  • Apex International, Dundee, in association with Blink Red


  • Hunting Art Prizes, Royal College of Art, London
  • Brunel University, London. 'Letters from Elsewhere', with Yuji Oki, Anne Rook and Isao Miura


  • First Royal West of England Academy Open Exhibition - prize winner


  • Bournemouth University: ‘Landmark’. Exhibition of works by artists influenced by the land


  • Galeria Blu, Milan, Italy. Selected form an international competition celebrating the colour blue


  • 'Complimentary Spaces'; exhibition with Madeleine Strindberg at Byam Shaw Concourse Gallery


  • South Bank Picture Show, Royal Festival Hall, London


  • Mercury Gallery, Cork St. London. 'Introducing New Artists'