“I have this thing of checking my MDs before going to sleep,” says Warsaw painter Oh from Laval from her studio in Manchester, where she has lived for two years. “I interact with people all over the world. When I go to sleep it’s early in America, so I check in at midnight.
It’s no surprise that a rigorous DM routine is such an important part of Laval’s schedule: his Instagram feed is an addicting and hypnotic feed of pastel colors and likable characters who could have skipped from the pages of Hans Christian Anderson’s tales. , mingling in a playground of macabre sex – most men have demonic attributes – and lawless joy. And that has earned him a dedicated fan base: nearly 70,000 subscribers.
While Britain was in its infancy, de Laval found one of those late-night DMs from experimental pop musician Kali Uchis, who was eager to collaborate on an upcoming EP. “She knew immediately what she wanted to do. And I think it was the fastest painting I’ve ever done, ”says de Laval. “I only had this one, a really big canvas in my studio, but it was during lockdown so I couldn’t just go out and buy a new one. So I had to finish it on this huge canvas, and I did it in half a day – and it usually takes me about a week to finish one of my paintings. I was really motivated when I did.
What de Laval created for Uchis Feel alive was a story in motion, suspended in its most breathtaking rhythm: in a luxury apartment, an incarnation of Uchis (with black hair) pleases another incarnation (this one blonde, the Uchis of Feel alive‘s release) on a pink bed, surrounded by champagne, while a pod of the London Eye ferris wheel burns in the background. It is very dangerous for work, but it can be found here.
While the image itself seems to match de Laval’s mark of carnal, radical pleasure, she and Uchis knew the point wasn’t just to titillate. “People might say, ‘Oh, it’s a woman who comforts another woman,’ but it’s so much deeper than that! Uchis’ vision had more to do with the idea of some sort of mental satisfaction – a past self inspiring and informing the present self – even as the world sinks into destruction right outside your window.
“[Uchis] I loved it, ”says de Laval of the painting’s crown jewel, that steaming tourist pod. “It was important to show the city on fire while she was having fun.” However, not everyone agreed with the board’s message: on Spotify, Uchis and de Laval quickly learned that the image had been completely censored into an unintelligible blur, as seen below. They were surprised at the level of censorship: the bodies turned into spots.
Like his more recent work, the painting leans towards the joyful and the cartoonish, built on clever little pictorial flourishes, and avoids any implicit politicization of his monstrous men or notions of a note of sexual empowerment (if a woman painting sex can inherently avoid politicization). But this style, the one that won him a worldwide following, followed a distinct phase. The work she produced as a young student in Paris revolved around images of gore and violence with a darker palette of visceral tones. “It was just that time in my early twenties. I wanted to do something different and I was really inspired by Francis Bacon, who used this subject a lot.
She describes Paris as the city she feels most connected to, the place that fundamentally shaped her. “But now because my life is different. I grew up, grew up, I do different things; I party less – this year not at all! She explains.” Life changes and my paintings change too. And I ‘I’m glad about that. Its real subject might be the mess of life itself: Unit London’s new limited-edition de Laval pop-up book is titled The bigger the love, the bigger the chaos.