Oh de Laval’s debut solo exhibition, Wild Things Happen in Stillness, is currently open at Unit London until Saturday 24th April. To explore the nuanced humour of Laval’s painted universe, we examined some of her diverse inspirations. The artist’s influences stem from art, film, music, current affairs and more.
From the outset, Laval highlights that her inspirations are constantly evolving; in ten years’ time they may be completely different. These are her influences of the past and of the moment, but they may not be her influences of the future. When first examining Laval’s artworks, the distinctive world that the artist has created becomes immediately apparent. Filled with mischievous characters, cheeky dogs, gilded interiors and vibrant landscapes, Laval’s artistic universe has become instantly recognisable. Despite its contemporary markers, the artist’s paintings still have an old world feel with figures dressed in period outfits like traditional maid costumes and flowing gowns. In this sense, one might not be surprised that Laval took her early inspiration from Old Master paintings and works from the 18th and 19th centuries. Laval singles out the Danish-German painter, Ditlev Blunck, as a notable figure. While the artist has not had a direct influence on Laval’s painting, his works act as paradigms of artistic masterpieces for her. Storytelling is central to many of these types of paintings, which frequently portray mythological, religious or moralistic narratives. In a similar way, each of Laval’s paintings is a condensed story in and of itself.
Ditlev Blunck, Nightmare, 1846, Oil on canvas, 62 x 49 cm (Credit: https://www.nivaagaard.dk/en/samling-en/ditlev-blunck-1/)
Oh de Laval, How to control your dreamscape? , 2020, Acrylic on canvas, 70 x 60cm
In particular, Laval has long been inspired by the Irish-born artist, Francis Bacon. She appreciates and admires the aesthetic of his artworks but is more inspired by his general outlook on life. Bacon lived as a charismatic, eloquent and well-read bon vivant, enjoying the pleasures and indulgences of everyday existence. In this vein, Laval is interested in figures like Dita Von Teese who unapologetically presents her sexuality and lifestyle. Perhaps drawing inspiration from these figures, Laval’s characters live their lives through extreme emotions, expressing themselves in ways that many of us wish we could if we lived in a world with no consequences.
Francis Bacon, Study for Bullfiight No.1, 1969, Oil on canvas, 197.7 x 147.8 cm (Credit: https://www.francis-bacon.com/artworks/paintings/second-version-study-bullfight-no-1)
As well as these artistic and symbolic inspirations, Laval is a frequent admirer of film. She notes Wes Anderson and Ari Aster as specific directors who have made a significant impression on her. Wes Anderson is known for his singularly eccentric and surrealist style, while Aster is recognised for his work in the suspense and horror genre. Both Aster and Anderson’s films have identifiable visual tropes and aesthetics unique to their direction, often using the same actors across multiple films. In a similar sense, Laval has created her own recognisable world that features a familiar cast of characters. Each of her paintings unravels like a scene from a film, as figures are often caught in moments of suspense just as something is about to happen or, conversely, they are caught right in the middle of the action.
Oh de Laval, The slower the kiss the faster the heartbeat, 2020, Acrylic on canvas, 100 x 100 cm
Now, however, Laval is less influenced by these other artforms and more inspired by life itself. She prefers when her paintings are inspired her own experiences or observations. However, over the past year, as our contact with others has been reduced, Laval has been moved by music, podcasts and current events. Two of her works from her current solo exhibition, The end of the world and You can tell me your reasons but they won’t change my feelings, were inspired by well-known songs. Equally, her artwork Nothing New Under the Sun took its inspiration from a news story in which a young girl was carried out to sea by the wind alone on an inflatable unicorn. As such, Laval often finds her artistic stimulation from the world around her rather than from other artists.
Oh de Laval, Nothing New Under the Sun, 2020, Acrylic on canvas, 80 x 60 x 1.5 cm
Laval’s inspirations change frequently, but this is also a slow process of evolution, which, for her, is a natural part of growing up. The artist believes it is extremely important for her work and style to progress throughout the years. In this sense, Laval’s developing style will continue to stimulate and excite her own artistic practice and her wider audience.
Oh de Laval
How To Control Your Dreamscape?
Oh de Laval
Here comes a feeling you thought you’d forgotten
Oh de Laval
Nothing New Under the Sun
Oh de Laval
The End of the World
Oh de Laval
The slower the kiss the faster the heartbeat