[April 5 2023]
An Interview of the young half Thai and half Polish artist Oh de Laval for Purple by Valeria Della Valle, at the occasion of her new exhibition “Take your pleasure seriously” on view at Galerie Marguo, Paris until May 6, 2023.
Valeria Della Valle: Your paintings have always intrigued me. I’ve often wondered if they are a reflection of your life or more of a fantasy world that you wish to live in.
Oh De Laval: Well, it’s both. Sometimes I paint about the exact situations that I am living in, other times I recreate what other people are telling me, and at times I depict situations that would be comforting and cool to happen in the real world.
Valeria Della Valle: It must be fulfilling to have the ability to put your thoughts on canvas. When you switched from industrial design to painting, do you recall the feeling of knowing that this was your calling?
Oh De Laval : I initially studied industrial design because I wanted to be like one of the famous Italian architects, but I forgot that technical skills were required (laughs). However, I was very good at painting, and my London apartment was full of my artwork. I wasn’t discouraged by not selling them. I was merely expressing myself. I can only keep going on and on; painting is as natural to me as breathing.
Valeria Della Valle: Your artwork has a distinctive signature style. It’s not a repetitive element, but rather an energy and style that make your artworks undeniably identifiable as Oh de Laval’s.
Oh De Laval: I cannot explain what that is as I don’t see it myself. I don’t do it on purpose, if that makes sense. But I feel that a work of art needs to have a powerful emotion within to shake people off from their apathy, from their sleepiness. What I aim to achieve with my work is shaking people off from their 9 to 5 routine, and to do that, the artwork must be strong, like alcohol. Sometimes I have an idea for a painting, and I go for a walk, observe people, look at them as they carry groceries and head home. I ask myself, “Would they like it? Would it make them happy, or would it make them feel anything at all?” If the answer is no, then the painting is not right.
Valeria Della Valle: You are getting it right; your work has gone viral.
Oh De Laval: Yes, it’s incredible. I didn’t plan it at all. I didn’t send any promos or something like that. It just happened. Sometimes it’s overwhelming because you can’t control it, but I am grateful it happened to me.
Valeria Della Valle: Have you ever felt misunderstood by your audience?
Oh De Laval: I think my audience gets me. I don’t believe that I am a unique person with a unique point of view. My work is for people who appreciate life in the same way I do, who focus on pleasures. People who understand that life can be really hard, therefore they try to find those little special moments and extend them as much as they can. That’s my audience, I think.
Valeria Della Valle: You said, “Take your pleasure seriously!” I find it interesting how pleasure is directly linked to a sense of mortality. Gods envy us because every moment can be our last.
Oh De Laval: Exactly! Sometimes people don’t want to take any risk because it could break the life they have built for themselves. But what if there is something more exciting, something better, behind the wall? Life is short for all of us, and I am so conscious about it with my life and my work. Do you know that I have a driving license for Ducati now? I was in Palermo, and there were so many guys driving like it’s so normal. I was like, “I want to drive like this to work.” Life is not a stable line; it’s made of ups and downs. I believe that what really shows your character is how you deal with the in-betweens.
Have you ever driven in Naples? There are no chances of survival.
Valeria Della Valle: What is your opinion on Naples and how has it influenced your work?
Oh De Laval: Oh, I love Naples! My girlfriends and I drive an old car and we usually go to this super cool restaurant by the sea, on the heel on the shore.
Valeria Della Valle: Beautiful. Looking at your work, there is that sense of enjoyment and energy that can only be found in places like Naples or south of Italy, the pleasure of conviviality. Even for Italians, Naples is like a unicorn. Neapolitans have character, the city is very spicy. What’s interesting about their culture is how they used humor and playfulness as a response to difficulties and poverty. Getting the fun out of misery. This resonates a lot with the topics behind my work, this sense of tragicomedy. Can you elaborate on the idea of tragicomedy in your work?
Oh De Laval: Indeed, tragicomedy. I feel you can go to the next level there, you know, and they really don’t care. I like to go clubbing because it’s very different than anywhere else in the world. The way the girls dress and how the guys dress to approach them, everything is a game. As an observer, I make mental notes. It’s a source of inspiration for my work. Before visiting Naples for the first time, everyone was telling me how disgusting and dirty the city is. Instead, I completely felt in love with it because of its roughness. It’s honest and real and beautiful. That is something I am missing here in Paris, you know? I like when there’s lots of strikes in Paris because the city gets rough. Violence is a part of life, whether you like it or not. We cannot exclude it.
Valeria Della Valle: You have said that pleasure has nothing to do with wellness. Can you explain your thoughts on this?
Oh De Laval: 100%. I think it’s a marketing thing. The wellness for pleasure doesn’t feel real to me. There’s no face masks in the world that will make you feel good. What really will make you feel good instead is going to your hometown, spending time with your friends, eating, having sex. This is what makes your skin blower.
Valeria Della Valle: How do you feel about being an artist with a hedonistic approach and acknowledging it in today’s society?
Oh De Laval: It is tricky, lots of criticism coming out of there but I am not focusing on the negative. My work is based on emotions, you know. I need those powerful, extreme, strong moments in my life to create my world on canvas. I don’t have an exquisite, realistic style, it’s more based on expressing feelings. I need to condense a whole story into one single moment, that’s the challenge.
Valeria Della Valle: Your paintings convey a sense of action and emotion. Can you speak to the influences behind your work?
Oh De Laval: I love this interpretation; I see it now and it makes sense. The happy, bubbly music, and you can hear the champagne popping and the laughs in the background. This is it, I want everyone, especially young people, to focus on enjoying ourselves a bit more. Everyone is so stressed at such a young age. Those years are not coming back, you know. I love Pasolini too, I felt very emotional going to Bologna and discover the city was celebrating the centenary.
Valeria Della Valle: What do you think is great about Pasolini, regardless of whether you are into his work or not?
Oh De Laval: What’s great about Pasolini, regardless of if you’re into his work or not, is his fearlessness. It is something I learn from him.
Valeria Della Valle: Do you believe that your work and style are a response to the austerity you experienced growing up? Can you tell us more about your parents?
Oh De Laval: Yes, I do think my work is an answer to the grey, normal life that I used to have. My mom is a painter too, but she is more traditional in her style. She has joked that “people who buy your paintings must be sex weirdos.” (laughs) My dad is a workaholic and very disciplined, and I have inherited that from him.
Valeria Della Valle: Do you think you would have been the same artist if you had stayed in Poland?
Oh De Laval: I am positive that I would not be the same artist if I had remained in Poland. Moving abroad provided me with the encouragement and support that I could not find in Poland. It would have been nearly impossible to get permission to exhibit my work there.
Valeria Della Valle: Are you a spiritual person?
Oh De Laval: My parents are spiritual, but I consider myself a carpe diem person. I prioritize the present moment and what I see as important. I work with what I feel and what I want, while keeping my feet on the ground and my head in the sky.
Valeria Della Valle: What is the dark side of being an artist?
Oh De Laval: That is an excellent question. For some people, owning one of my works is more of a business or investment than anything else. That hurts me the most because my works are like my babies, and it feels like giving away one of my children. I want my works to end up in a beautiful, safe, and caring home.
Valeria Della Valle: Is there a place or venue where you dream of exhibiting your work?
Oh De Laval: I often fantasize about exhibiting my work in a villa in Posillipo, Naples, which has five floors. I would like to host a big party and invite other artists to the event. It is sad that all artists and creatives from Naples need to go abroad or to Milan to work. My current wish is to do something in Naples with my art, as I feel that the city has given a lot to many people who leave, while I would love to give back to the city.
Valeria Della Valle: I am excited to see that happening!
Oh De Laval: Thank you!
Styled by Svita Sobol all clothes from @lacollectionparticuliere available online.
Photos by Cosimo Fanciullacci