Composed from reworked expressionist paintings, Cycle is magnified and projected on three 7.3 x 12.3-foot screens, a scale that echoes Frankenthaler’s large canvases. Enveloping the gallery, vast opaque and translucent fields of color move like a river across the screens. Olivier’s triple-channel projection begins with a cityscape that shifts into abstraction, depicting a shifting and non-linear space, interplaying elements of the pieces that were his point of origin. The looping 14-minute animation depicts pooling paint, color saturation, and the occasional errant droplet or painterly brush mark to recall the waves, ribbons, and swaths of color in fluid movement. Like in an abstract expressionist painting, the subject of Cycle becomes the gesture and application of paint. Floating amorphous shapes suggest drifting characters. As a hybrid of painting and cinema, the work further shifts the emphasis from narrative to abstraction, highlighting color, elemental mark making, and causing painterly gestures to assume leading roles.
Olivier begins with a single image painted on a small wood panel. He layers paint on the surface, photographing the progress in stages. A series of panels-none of which are fully realized pieces-comprise the final animation. His active, expressive brushstrokes allow him to find inspiration in smeared paint and inadvertent droplets of pigment; he embraces these “little happy accidents in paint.” A particular stroke or glob of paint filtered out of a photograph might take on more signficance in an animation. Often insisting on the integrity of acrylic hues, he rarely mixes more than three colors at once, frequently overlaying his marks to create the illusion of three-dimensional space.
During his residency, Olivier sought to push his work further to abstraction, moving away from a narrative or film language toward a more painterly approach. Studying the work of American abstract expressionists such as Helen Frankenthaler, an artist who poured thinned paint directly on larger than life-sized canvases on the floor in her Color Field works, Olivier similarly engaged in a process of coaxing acrylic paint to spread and drip in brilliantly hued pools, more characteristic in watercolor. “I took my inspiration for the colors I used from just biking the city and looking at all the brightly colored buildings,” he explains. “San Antonio is very much in there.”