Pissed priests, flashing chefs and decapitated dinner guests are just some of the sinister characters that frequent Oh de Laval’s intriguing paintings, which offer an insight into the more absurd side of the human condition.
“People are my main influence; their social interactions, their secret needs, their craziness and their natural drive to be naughty,” says the artist, whose real name is Olga Pothipirom.
Growing up in Warsaw as an only child, Pothipirom would spend much of her time alone in her room drawing, creating collages and sewing, but didn’t start gravitating towards painting as a medium until later on.
“When I was 21, I studied industrial design and I quickly realised it wasn’t for me, so I dropped it and got a job instead. I felt quite lost and sad at the time, but looking at the situation from my current perspective, it was the best decision. Painting classes were the part of my university course that I felt most comfortable doing, so I decided to continue them on weekends,” she says.
Pothipirom ended up studying at Warsaw’s Academy of Fine Arts for two years, before moving on to study sociology at the University of Warsaw. Now based in London, she is part of a wave of young creatives using the power of social platforms like Instagram to bypass the more elitist elements of the art world and build their own community.
Being raised on pop culture influences such as Disney and Cartoon Network has given Pothipirom’s paintings a colourful and cartoonish aesthetic, but she admits that other elements of her practice are drawn from more traditional corners of the art world. She cites Francis Bacon as one of her biggest influences, not so much stylistically but more for his hedonistic outlook on life and work.
Sex and sexual deviance are also enduring sources of fascination for Pothipirom, but she points out that the nature of these interactions in her paintings have changed as she has developed as an artist. “My approach to portraying sex has evolved with my age. It’s just part of growing up, I used to use sex in my paintings to express it as something very raw and sinister, and now it’s more playful and silly,” she says.
Now represented by Unit London, Pothipirom’s work has been capturing the attention of an eclectic mix of fans lately. One of her more high-profile fans is singer Kali Uchis, who recently commissioned her to put an Oh de Laval twist on her new EP To Feel Alive, which was recorded during lockdown.
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“The cover artwork was inspired by her first album Por Vida,” says Pothipirom. “It’s pink and blue skies with clouds, and Kali came up with idea of her eating herself out in the same colour palette with something disturbing in the background. She mentioned on her Instagram that this EP is inspired by lockdown, and the ferris wheel signifies a disturbing situation in the city, while Kali experiences pleasure in her apartment. In my opinion that’s exactly what this EP cover signifies in these difficult times: a moment of pleasure in our comfort zone.”