In parallel to his work, Oliver spent a good deal of time reading and thinking about the deeper questions of life. He saw Art and a search for meaning as going hand in hand. He gave a talk in 1988 at Hawkwood College, near Stroud, in which he said: “A prime function of Art is to help us to use our senses more alertly…. Art with its distilled statements and poetic imagery can lift us towards levels of extended perception.”

During the talk, he drew an image on a board, reproduced here from his notes. Within a square frame are three oval shapes, blank inside, but surrounding them and filling the rest of the frame is a pattern of tiny circles. He tells the audience that they are seeing “Three Stones on a Beach”. After a pause he says, no, they are “Three Holes in a Screen”. And finally he says that the image is both stones and holes at the same time. This says so much about his work: the representational and the abstract; the physical and the non-physical; the recognition that reality is multi-faceted and complex, and yet illustrated here through a very simple idea.