Spotlight on: Oliver Cain

Oliver Cain is an English born/New Zealand Artist. His work covers a broad range of topics as it changes and develops as well as a wide range of materials. His artworks, subverted linguistic paintings, ceramic sculptures and installations, bear a certain physicality and push the boundaries between conceptualism and post-pop art. As a proud member of the queer community, Cain uses his work to examine, question and criticise the relationships between gender, (homo)sexuality and societies’ misconceptions about those themes.

This year we have partnered with Oliver to create our Limited Edition CLIQUE x Cain ‘Sweat(er) With Pride’. We sat down with Oliver to learn more about where he draws his inspiration from, to hear about his journey and how he provokes thought and conversations around meaningful topics and misconceptions in society.

What was your very first official work of art and where did you draw your first inspiration from?
My early work is very floral and pattern based, stemming from a love for the outdoors and nature. Highly influenced by english classical designs in lots of the state homes and across the craft era (especially William Morris). Just something about the simple and complex designs fascinated me so I made my own and then made more contemporary versions of them.

How has your work developed over the years?
Over the past years of working on my practice a noticeable change has incurred as I’ve grown and developed. Early on my work was quite safe and conservative however through art studies and self exploration I’ve been able to make work that is explicitly me. Exploring personal themes of identity, sexuality and gender then exploring how society views them in response to my own experiences. Now my work sits in its own space and exists unapologetically. 

Along your journey, at what point did you realise you could use your talent to provoke thought and conversations around meaningful topics in society and misconceptions?
It was when I started to use my work to explore personal ‘issues’ in a way that was openly bringing personal experiences into existence through the medium of art. Unknowingly making work that automatically created conversations and provoked thought allowing my work to be seen and viewed within a different light. I usually make work in response to events or experiences then the meaning sits hand in hand with the physical work and the idea/experience. 

Image showing two pieces of Oliver Cains artwork
Two pieces from Oliver Cain’s Interpretation Collection

If you could give advice to 15 year old you, what would you say?
Just keep going and be true to yourself. I’ve only ever made work that I want to make and I think that’s important for an artist. You have to find yourself and then your style will find you. 

What about collaborating with the Clique team for Sweat with Pride appealed to you?
I’ve always found it important to contribute to society though my art and this was a great opportunity to be part of something larger than my work. As well as it helping a community that I’m part of and happy to help a good cause. 

The CLIQUE x CAIN Sweat(er) with Pride pattern is an Interpretation piece, why do you feel that pattern suited this project? Can you tell us more about its meaning and where you drew your inspiration from?
My interpretation works are a bit less in your face and more subtle in nature compared to some of my other work. It’s also easily transferable to different mediums/surfaces which make it easy to use for something like fabric. The custom design for this collaboration touches on pride and the sweat with pride initiative. The design has a mix of words and phrases scattered throughout making the viewer search and find words that are there and also ones that only they can see. A perfect representation of hidden experiences and individual stories experienced my many within the LGBTQI+ community.


All profits from the sale of this Limited Edition Sweater will be donated to projects that provide essential physical, mental and sexual health services for Rainbow New Zealanders.


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