"Contactless" And Loving It: A Conversation with London's Oli Epp
We first introduced our readers to the works of London-based Oli Epp's work back in 2017, after instantly falling in love with his quirky and hyper-flat way of capturing everyday moments and parodying the familiar life routines. We've followed by covering his Paris debut, his Amsterdam residency, and eventually featured him in our Summer 2018 issue.
So knowing that his LA debut solo show with Richard Heller gallery was bound to be the one to remember, we patiently waited until he finished and shipped out all the works before we reached out and had a chat with him about this milestone show. Turns out Epp felt the same about this showcase, so it was great to hear about the background of the new, large-scale works, touch the hot topic of Internet trolls, as well as hear about his exciting future plans.
Sasha Bogojev: How important does your LA debut feel to you?
Oli Epp: It honestly feels like a pivotal moment in my career. I’m honored to be working with Richard Heller. He has given me some excellent exposure through publications, digital press and more. The largest paintings in my show have been bought by major collectors... I’m over the moon about that.
Congrats on that! Did the importance of the show add the pressure to your work process and was it a good or a distracting pressure?
The pressure was on for sure. I knew I needed to raise the bar from my last solo show as more people are watching... I’ve showcased some new compositions, ideas, and color combos. Developing this body of work felt very organic, I let one painting inform the decisions of the next and so forth.
The gallery space itself is double the size of my last solo show so it only felt natural to increase the scale of the paintings.
Is there a common idea/theme between the works made for the show?
The show is called Contactless. The recurring theme is man's relations to technology and consumption. In this body of work, I’m portraying the darker side of everyday life riddled with neurosis, obsession, and with a twist of humor.
I see you've revisited some older works, like the suntan ones. Why is it important for you to go back to some works?
I just loved making the Tanning Shop paintings. I think the sunbed is a really peculiar, almost alien, space where people go to look more desirable. I’m a regular sunbed abuser, I usually go when I have low self-esteem. I burn my skin by choice. Painting it feels like an act of therapy or catharsis. I get to laugh at my habitual tragedies through paint.
It looks like some of the works are having a direct reference to LA. Like the one about Scientology. Were the works planned with that in mind and why Scientology?
I didn’t make the painting because of geography. Sure the Scientology logo appears to mimic the glow of the Hollywood sign. However, this painting, The Minister, was made in direct response to a curious encounter I had at a Scientology Church in Copenhagen. For research purposes, I sat the 90-minute personality exam in the church and had an hour consultation with the female minister... I won’t tell you the rest of the story.
Ah, that is unfair! I do feel like the subjects are sharper, more provocative, and edgier so to say this time. Do you feel that the body of work is different in any way from your previous shows?
The new body of work has an air of loneliness about it. My life is changing. I have gone through a lot of personal battles this year with app addiction, Internet trolls, relationship therapy, being burgled the list goes on. So I would definitely say that the new paintings are less ‘PG’.
Did you have any themes/subjects you wanted to work with but had to censor for any reason?
Nope. Richard Heller gave me free reign, no rules, no limitations.
What are your best hopes about this show and what are your worst fears about it?
My hopes are that the paintings revived some strong critical appreciation. However, I don’t want to jinx that! Honestly, I have no fears, I’m in very good hands. Mr. Heller has been spoiling me silly.
What are you working on next, now that Contactless is up and running over at Richard Heller gallery?
I’m doing a killer group show in Malmö, Sweden with Carl Kostyál in May. So many amazing artists are involved such as Austin Lee or Cheyenne Julienne. I’ve also just launched an artist residency called PLOP in London with my special friend Andrea Emelife, who wrote the thought press release for this show. We received a very generous donation to run the project for one whole year. The website is www.plop-residency.com. Check it out!
Oli Epp's Contactless will be on view at Richard Heller Gallery through April 27, 2019.