Oh de Laval paints erotic scenes inspired by the dark side of humanity

The playful London-based artist on painting EP artwork for Kali Uchis, people watching and goblin dogs.

by Frankie Dunn
|
09 July 2020, 9:00am

When the artist known as Oh de Laval was 23 her life was changed by Francis Bacon. Standing before his ‘Study of the human body', (1982) in a Madrid gallery, something moved within the half-Thai, half-Polish creative and a new life plan was set. “I would say that it was like experiencing art in a pure form for the first time,” she recalls. Since then, Oh has studied at Warsaw’s Academy of Fine Arts (where she learnt “how to drink a lot and paint well at the same time”) and relocated to London, where she now lives at age 30.

Each morning Oh wakes at 4am and sets up an easel next to the big window in her living room. Clearly in the right headspace, she paints until lunch and then takes the rest of the day off. During those eight or so hours she works to a soundtrack of Frank Ocean and Tyler, the Creator, letting her imagination run free as she dreams up playful scenes surrounding the peculiarities of people. “It’s mostly their interactions,” she explains, “how they behave, how they try to impress one another, how they argue, what triggers them to get angry. The dark side of humanity is very interesting to me.”

Oh de Laval painting

Oh’s large colourful canvases depict people having sex in a series of different situations: a beautiful garden (where one woman wears nothing but pink knee-high boots and a Fendi bag thrown high above her head), on a formal dining table (plates and cutlery scattered everywhere) and across the top of a baby grand piano. Others portray priests helping themselves to the communion wine, a Renaissance woman ripping out the heart of her lover, a smirking man eating oysters with tabasco as the room around him burns, and a disgruntled chef pressing his bare butt cheeks directly into the top of a wedding cake before the bride and groom.

In Oh’s world subjects are usually naked, and you can typically find a dog or two watching the scenes unfold with an all-knowing gaze. “I place them in the corner of my paintings like little goblins, waiting for something to happen,” she explains, brilliantly.

While Oh’s creations could be seen as surreal -- like the weird sexy dreams you're more likely to keep to yourself -- she certainly doesn’t view them as such. “To me, they are very real,” she says, citing the kind of people watching that inspires them: “I like watching people order their drinks, chatting in restaurants, trying to make smalltalk in smoking spots, girls in toilets, etc.” Perhaps Oh just sees a whole lot more than the rest of us; sees people and scenarios for what they really are.

Oh de Laval painting

Despite 2020 being a total nightmare, Oh has found it to be her best year yet creatively, having collaborated on several exciting projects; her favourite being the artwork for Kali Uchis’ new EP To Feel Alive. “She messaged me on Instagram. There wasn’t a specific brief, more an idea that I liked straight away about isolation and enjoying yourself during this difficult time.” The result? A portrait of Kali, safe in a pink penthouse, having sex with herself as the world outside burns. Perfection.

Look a little closer at the full spectrum of Oh de Laval’s work and you might notice the recurrence of demon-like characters -- seducing people into compromising situations or disguised in animal form -- but she’s apprehensive to divulge any clear-cut explanation for the descending hellscape. “I’ll leave it to the viewer to decide what it means to them,” she says. “It’d be like explaining how to do a magic trick... that’s not the point of art.” The point, if Oh's works are anything to go by, is instead to hold a mirror up to the beautifully twisted minds of humans, with a big smile on your face.

Oh de Laval painting
Oh de Laval painting
Oh de Laval painting
Oh de Laval painting
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Art
Kali Uchis
Oh de Laval