Charmaine Olivia Highlark

Charmaine Olivia‘s oil paintings are marked by their effervescence and distinct take on portraiture. Featuring mostly women, they vary in tone and composition, retaining a crucial similarity- they are both the goddess and the girl. Charmaine’s style is pronounced and defined but still allows room for experimentation, giving her critical versatility as a painter and illustrator.

The first thing that comes to mind when viewing Olivia’s body of work is headshots – images taken for the sole purpose of emphasizing facial features, of pleasing a hierarchy and being deemed good enough. However, it soon becomes clear that Charmaine does not put the women she paints on pedestals. They’re not basking in the glow of their fortunate physicality, but rather what comes from within them. It’s unapologetic, a confidence that shows in the way they’re positioned, the textures that Charmaine surround them with, and the way they look out of their frames. One piece, called Encinitas is exceptionally telling. Whether it be an ode to the place or to one particular woman that graced its shores, it’s a piece of utmost quality that embodies the artist’s vision as well as her personality. The dolphin hidden in the girl’s hair makes me, for lack of fancier phrasing, glad to be young and still living under blue skies.

When it comes to technique, some of Charmaine’s pieces are tight, following models of classic portraiture, while others are more loose and more exploratory. A recent example, Intelligentsia falls into the latter category, emitting an illusion of submersion reminiscent of one of the artist’s previous series, Muses. There’s definitely an underlying connection linking every single one of her pieces, an intimate knowledge between subject and creator and an understanding of one another. Whether the subject in question is modeled on a real person or comes from Charmaine, her humanity is an unwavering constant.

With a remarkable hold on oil paint and photorealism, Charmaine Olivia renders portraits of women that are beautiful in a relatable way. Despite being polished and solid, her pieces are allowed to breathe and play while retaining their profundity and dimension. The paint falls into waves of hair and bare skin effortlessly, sometimes unraveling into flora abstraction, the disorder of which only highlights the woman in the center.


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