“Perhaps we sympathise with villains more than heroes because their world is not black and white. That is the shrewd dumbness of Oli’s oxymoronic characters – they are clearly misunderstood.” – Harrison Pearce, for Oxymoron at Carl Kostyál Gallery, 2019
Oli Epp (b. 1994) is a painter living and working in London. Deformed, quirky and exuberant figures inhabit Oli Epp’s canvas, often staged within theatrical settings. Easy to read at first glance, these hyper-dramatised characters reflect upon our complex relationship to technology and social media. Epp’s idiosyncratic aesthetic fuses realistically painted details in oil with graphic techniques in airbrush and linear masking.
In 2017, Oli Epp coined the term “Post-Digital Pop” to define his practice, where he transfers his impressions of the digital universe onto the canvas, his aesthetic endorsing vivid colours, clarity of composition and ease of comprehension. As Epp explained: “‘Post-digital’ doesn’t stand for ‘after’, but it has something to do with our relationship with the digital space. I use Pop Art as a way to traverse the world through advertising and branding. So my paintings are punctuated by realism and with corporate symbols, along with flat planes of colours. My art is a response to our experience of living in this commercial and consumerist culture” – LINK IN BIO – Post-Digital Pop Podcast, Museum der bildenden Künste (Mdbk) Leipzig, 2020.
Oli Epp paintings create a whimsical archive of the digital-based and brand-obsessed culture we live in, depicting the idioms and icons of our times. His grotesque characters appear constricted within uncomfortable graphic forms and devoid of fleshy texture. They present anonymous facial features and are instead defined by clothes, brands and savage desires.
Yet, while objects and icons deceive us into the horizon of familiarity -pale orange Sainsbury’s bags, McDonald’s chips and Airpods- the paintings reveal the alienating dynamics of consumerism and the isolation which underpins the digital. In fact, behind the flamboyant shapes of the canvas-screen lies a more sober social critique: a visual allusion to wider themes of consumption, relationships, sexual objectification and the commercialisation of art.
This critique is by no means sharp nor cynical, but a witty observation; as if the artist was standing by the side, smiling at the shameless dumbness of his characters. There is a sense of honesty and naivety eliciting from Epp’s works that have earned him great popularity at a young age. Perhaps the secret lies in “responding to everyday life with sense of humor and giving attention to motifs that have been overlooked in art history” – Oli Epp, Post-Digital Pop Podcast, Mdbk, 2020.
Oli Epp was born in London in 1994 and earned a BFA from the City & Guilds of London Art School in 2017.
Epp began working with Carl Kostyál in 2019 in the debut group exhibition ‘Malmö Sessions’, at Carl Kostyál Gallery, Malmö, Sweden and culminating into Oli Epp’s first solo show in London, ‘Oxymoron’, at Carl Kostyál Gallery (December 2019- March 2020).
Carl Kostyál Gallery exhibited Oli Epp’s paintings at the 2019 ‘ART021 Contemporary Art Fair’, Shanghai; 2020 ‘Felix Art Fair’ in Los Angeles; and ‘Dallas Art Fair’, Dallas, TX (2020). Moreover, Carl Kostyál invited the artist to curate the solo shows of Benjamin Spiers, ‘Hook and Crook’ (2019); and group show ‘Fingertips’ (2019) in his London Gallery; as well as taking part to the artist-residency ‘Draw Jam 2019’, organised by the gallerist in Masseria Fontana di Vite, Matera, Italy.
Oli Epp’s recent solo exhibition includes: ‘Black Swan’, Semiose Galeries, Paris (2020); ‘Contactless – Oli Epp’, Richard Heller Gallery, Los Angeles (2019) and ‘Oli Epp – Epiphanies’, Semiose Galerie, Paris (2018). Oli Epp won several awards and was included into the following museums shows: ‘Link in Bio, Art After Social Media’, at the Museum der bildenden Künste Leipzig (2019) and ‘Friends and Friends of Friends’ at the Schlossmuseum in Linz, Austria (2020).
His works have been collected by major private and public collections such as V&A Museum’s Permanent Print Collection, Hall Art Foundation, Beth Rudin DeWoody Collection and Ruth Borchard Next Generation Collection.