Dan Oliver: Our Nature – JPS Gallery (Hong Kong)

Art Martin Cid Magazine
Art Martin Cid Magazine

JPS Gallery is pleased to present Our Nature—a solo exhibition by Dan Oliver at the gallery’s Hong Kong location. The works on display reveal Oliver’s ongoing contemplation of nature, both in the sense of the outer, physical world, and as a symbol and metaphor in the mind, where nature becomes the language of dreams and meaning.

Dan Oliver
Dan Oliver. Entwined (2022). Acrylic on canvas 55.8 x55.8 cm

Our Nature presents a world inherently teeming with both beauty and danger. It reminds viewers that we are part of nature, we impact it, and that nature also defines us, highlighting the everlasting bond between nature and ourselves. The world is in constant flux. Ironically, our separation from nature and the desire to control it has led to human caused climate change, and the acceleration of change has created dangers that might be beyond our control. Our Nature becomes a moment of meditation and a reminder of our deep connection with nature.

In this time of uncertainty, Oliver offers us a sense of comfort. In his new work he represents human experience through the subject of nature, memory, and the ordinary world around us. Using recurring elements such as houses from his childhood in a small American town, entwined with undisturbed climbing bushes or human figures placed against unspoiled landscapes, Oliver creates his unique painterly vocabulary. He shows us the world as if filtered and simplified through memory or dreams, and viewers are invited to pause, observe, reflect on the many meanings embedded in the images and realise how nature can provide us with poetic elements that speak the language of the psyche.

Oliver is interested in how, in the process of remembering, reality blurs into symbols as our minds let details fall away and reconstruct the world according to what matters to us. Oliver said, “Like the mind in dreams, these paintings redeploy the imagery of nature to represent the self. As in our dreams, the paintings are nature imagining itself.”

Dan Oliver
Dan Oliver. Pruned (study) 2022. Graphite on paper 15.24 x 15.24 cm; 33 by 32 cm (framed)

Oliver’s works are thoughtfully and painstakingly produced. Compositional ideas are drawn, redrawn, and refined. Therefore, displayed alongside the canvas paintings are some of the graphite preparatory sketches on paper that led to the creation of the paintings. These drawings offer insight into the artist’s creative process and give us even more room for reflection as we see how the same idea can be realised in different mediums. Frequently, Oliver finds inspiration from his previous works and creates new works in dialogue with earlier ones. The painting titled Survivor was inspired by his 2021 painting Fervor, which depicted a man’s torso against a backdrop of stylised water, with his chest open to reveal a burning fire inside. The new painting Survivor plays with a similar juxtaposition of opposites—this time, a man in a lifeless desert has an opening in his back revealing enough metaphorical water to survive the harsh landscape. Seeing the figure from behind, and beholding the same scene that he faces, increases our identification with him, and so in a way, we all are the survivor. Oliver’s painting, The Lake is also a reinterpretation of an earlier work. Here we see a seemingly peaceful scene, yet a broken tree trunk suggests some past violence, and leafless tree branches remind us that nature contains both danger and beauty, life and death. It recalls the threat of climate change and is simultaneously a reminder of the brevity and unpredictability of life. The painting Entwined drew inspiration from vines growing on ancient statues. Here we see two feet planted firmly on the ground as vines grow wildly around and up the figure’s legs. It implies both stasis and change, permanence and the passage of time. The figure’s identity remains unknown, prompting the viewer to speculate on the image’s possible meanings.

Whether human desires outweigh the importance of maintaining a peaceful natural environment will continue to be a subject of discussion. Through this exhibition, Oliver hopes to encourage viewers to pause and reflect before coming to their own conclusion.

About Dan Oliver

Dan Oliver
Dan Oliver. Love Song to the Unconscious(2022). Acrylic on canvas 55.8 x 55.8 cm

With his distinctive painting style that combines surrealism and rural romanticism, Dan Oliver constructs a dream-like vision of the world that is simultaneously familiar and strange. Oliver’s imagery ranges from figural to abstract, and realistic to symbolic. He skilfully blends past memories with concerns of the present, creating idyllic, yet haunting images evoking nostalgia, and engaging with contemporary concerns. His work’s refined simplicity achieves an iconic appearance that is both striking and memorable. With elements such as fire, water, empty landscapes and morphing forms, Oliver’s idyllic paintings embody emotional and provocative narratives. Their clean simple forms and quiet beauty allow us to keep looking and thinking about the real world, which can sometimes be complex and frightening. The paintings invite viewers to reflect upon their place in this world, leaving room for dialogue and multiple interpretations.

Oliver grew up in the southern Illinois cities of East Saint Louis and Belleville. He earned his BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute and later an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. During his postgraduate programme, Oliver studied under several members of the innovative Chicago Imagists artist group, such as Jim Nutt, Ray Yoshida and Don Baum. Other influential members of that group who inspired Oliver were the painters Christina Ramberg and Roger Brown. This experience led him to combine the group’s irreverent grotesquery and modernist technique with other influences from Surrealism, Modernism and Pop Art. All of that combined with his American small-town upbringing, manifests in his canvases—a union of the modernist technique, contemporary culture, and rustic idleness.

The artist now lives and works in Chicago, Illinois.

About JPS Gallery

Established in Hong Kong in 2014 and later in Japan, Paris and Barcelona, JPS Gallery is an independent contemporary art gallery presenting works of emerging and established artists from around the world.

The gallery is founded with a passionate spirit that dedicates to the new digital age and the exploration of the world of fine art and pop culture. We aim to create an innovative environment for a new generation of artists and collectors, fostering a creative space for all. We focus on fun and playful works of the era that spans across different mediums and disciplines, showcasing a discerning selection of works that embody the aesthetics of today.

We are committed to supporting the culture and art scene both in Japan and Hong Kong, creating a vibrant local art community. The gallery regularly presents works of emerging artists in our gallery spaces in Tokyo and Hong Kong as well as international art fairs, giving them a platform to

gain global exposure, supporting young artists to launch their careers. JPS has also been an active contributor to society and the local art scene by sponsoring various charity events and auctions.

JPS Gallery (Hong Kong)

Hong Kong, Central, Queen’s Road Central, 15號Shops 218-219, 2/F, Landmark Atrium

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