Here I am, in a bright and sunny day inside the darkness of the metro, going to meet Oh de Laval at popular neighborhood Strasbourg St Dennis, my head is full of thoughts intrigued by the mysterious personality of this young Polish painter, I have been talking with her through Facebook during the last month and a half, trying to step inside her world to imagine the best way to photograph her. I step out of the metro and finally see her from the back, waiting for me just outside de exit, with a sporty outfit and a small backpack, I arrive from behind, she turns her head, we see each other in the distance, a smile comes out of our souls and then we finally say hi face to face.
Oh de Laval is a Paris lover, she’s always in Paris for her birthday the 7 of January, celebrating with her friends around Strasbourg-St Dennis, le Marais and Cafe la Perle near Picasso museum. During our conversations in Facebook before she came to Paris, I found that she has a deep knowledge about the movies that has been filmed in this city, so I decided to photographed her in the places where those movies were filmed, giving her the opportunity to put her own personality inside the ambiance of those movies. From her list I picked Une Femme est un Femme from Jean-luc Godard shot entirely at Strasbourg-St Denis, The Dreamers from Bernardo Bertolucci which was filmed by the iconic Cafe Valois and at Trocadero theater and finally Last Tango in Paris by Bernardo Bertolucci filmed in the area of Bir-Hakeim.
Her personality is as controversial as her work full of color, violence, sex and love, you will never guess which will be her answer to the next question. While we were having a coffee in a traditional Parisian cafe by the Porte St. Dennis, I called her an artist and she immediately replied “I’m not calling myself an artist, I’m a painter. I’m the only one who knows which one of my paintings is art and which one isn´t, if I can finish the painting with the idea that I want, it’s art for me, if not it’s just a painting.” and she continuous by saying “I just paint because I like it, people come and go, one day they like you and the next day they don’t, one day they like one of my paintings and the next one they don’t like it because it’s too violent. I think that if you like someone`s work, you should like everything of it, people like to put artist in boxes: abstract, portrait, landscape, etc. but one person is made of many different layers.”
When Oh de Laval was 19 went to the school of design but she quitted because it was too hard for her, she didn´t felt the freedom to do what she wanted. Right after she started to paint and unexpectedly, she received the strong support of one of her teachers from the design school who made her life difficult while she was a student. Today she paints full-time, her art is managed by a young Parisian girl who she found through instagram looking to meet somebody in the city, the girl end up being an art student, they met and went out to Bastille, got drunk and days after she became her manager.
When people says that her work has an influence of Picasso she says: “I don’t see it! Actually, one time during one of my vernissages in Paris a guy told me that my work looked like Picasso, and I asked him: why didn’t you say it looks like George Braque? and he replied, because the only cubist I know is Picasso…so?” and then she adds “I’m more influenced by Francis Bacon, not in the style but in the subject matter. He’s not my inspiration as a painter, but more like a person, he was very cool guy and I like the way he lived.”
I continued digging inside her personality, I take a new zip of my coffee, looked her straight to the eyes and very intrigued by the continuous use of different kinds of violence mixed with sex on her work, I asked her why and she says “Because it has a strong impact on people, it moves some strong emotions, you have to kick people’s ass to make them move, as Francis Bacon said: The art that has no balls, has no value”. That answer was in contradiction with the person who I was watching in front of me, when you see her, you can only think about tenderness and love, with a soft voice and sweet face you can only imagine an angel fallen from the sky, and then she gives me the final thrust by saying “I have a horrible character, I’m very terrorist, I’m the only child at home and I always have to get what I want.”
My cup of tea was almost empty, a sign that we should step out into the streets to start shooting, but I had one last question in my mind and as I said before, her answer was also unexpected…Do you have a boyfriend? “I completely quit the idea to have a boyfriend, I don’t want to spend time on it, I spent the best years of my life with guys and since I can have many boyfriends, why should I think to have just one? We humans are not monogamous by nature and also not sedentary, I love to keep moving and traveling and at the end of my life I want to have my grave in Barcelona.”
After that last answer, we walked to each one of the places from the selection of movies that I picked, to paint with light the way I saw her that day.