The Controversial Art of Oh de Laval


Theater at Trocadero from the movie The Dreamers by Bertolucci. © L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

Street at Strasbourg St-Dennis from the movie Une Femme est une Femme by Godard. © L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

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.

Pictures done in places related to the movies Une Femme est une Femme, the dreamers and last tango in paris.

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.”

Theater at Trocadero from the movie The Dreamers by Bertolucci. © L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

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.

Street at Strasbourg St-Dennis from the movie Une Femme est une Femme by Godard. © L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

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.”

Porte de St. Dennis from the movie Une Femme est une Femme by Godard. © L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

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.”

Theater at Trocadero from the movie The Dreamers by Bertolucci. © L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

Oh de Laval. © L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

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.”

Strasbourg St. Denis neighborhood from the movie Une Femme est une Femme movie by Godard. © L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

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.

Cheers!

 

 

 

 

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The French Kickback to the Terrorist Attacks.


Paris Attacks Nov. 13 2015

L.A. Cuellar, all rights reserved.

SPANISH VERSION

The isolation of the big capitals like Paris from the noise of the atrocities that take place around the world strengthens that feeling of being out of the reality of our planet, but history always handles to hit you in the face and nail down your feet to the ground to make you react and understand that you are not untouchable anymore or anywhere, that we are living a historic moment of humankind and we must open our eyes to the cruel reality.

Paris Attacks Nov. 13 2015L.A. Cuellar, all rights reserved.

November 13th of 2015 in Paris was for me exactly one of those moments which arrived to shake my soul and make me understand the historic moment we are living in the world. One day after the terrorist attacks in Paris, I decided to go out in the streets with my camera, to visit the places where the attacks occurred and sumerge my self into the crowds,  melting my soul with the people of Paris in the middle of their reactions to this tragic event to try to capture in images all what I was watching for the next 5 days after the attacks .

Paris Attacks Nov. 13 2015

L.A. Cuellar, all rights reserved.

I´m an immigrant in this country, I´ve been living here the last 3 years and still there are many things to learn and understand from the french culture, but these 5 days in the streets, living among the people, feeling their energy, listening to their talks, watching them, smelling the tragedy and touching the reality with my fingers have taught me more about them and about life than ever before since I put my feet on this country.

Paris Attacks Nov. 13 2015

L.A. Cuellar, all right reserved.

Paris Attacks Nov. 13 2015

L.A. Cuellar, all rights reserved

I walked all the places of the attacks: Le Bataclan, Le Petite Cambodge, Le Carrillon, La rue de la Fontaine au Roi and La Place de la République (which is the main meeting point for parisians to do protests) and I felt that heavy syrup of sadness slipping directly into my soul, spreading its bitter flavor from one person to the other in complete silence, a silence that speaks through the eyes of every person out loud, a silence of sadness but at the same time a silence of courage because Parisians are not afraid of these barbarians who want to eliminate the word Freedom as one of the core values of the french nation. It was very touching, specially because I have been at least one time in all of the places where the attacks occurred having a beer, a coffee or dinning with different friends, so I could not stop thinking: it could have been me!

Paris Attacks Nov. 13 2015

L.A. Cuellar, all rights reserved.

One of the things that has amazed me about french in all theses days, is the way they have reacted to the attacks in general, instead of feeling afraid and staying locked at their places, they have been out in the streets, visiting the places of the attacks doing pilgrimage of mourning to accompany their compatriots, they have been in the terraces of the restaurants having a coffee or having dinner with their friends, they have been gathering to protest and to sing the songs of freedom and french nationalism, in summary they kept living their normal parisian life full of activity outside in the streets. Their reaction seems to represent very well the phrase of Mahatma Gandhi: “When there is a storm, the birds hide themselves and the eagles fly higher”, I guess is the legacy of centuries that this city has  and that´s even written on their city shield: “Fluctuat Nec Mergitur” which means “Tossed but not sunk”.

Paris Attacks Nov. 13 2015

L.A. Cuellar, all rights reserved.

The attacks were a direct threat to the value of freedom that french have enacted and protected since the french revolution, a value that they have understood is the cornerstone of their society, for sure there is no better culture in the world than the french to understand what is the holistic meaning of the word Freedom. But these terrorist seem to don´t understand this about french culture and by doing this type of terrorist attacks, instead of sending a message of fear and submission, what they are achieving is to make a stronger union of french society against them, a union that is not afraid at all and the most important a union that is powered for the young people, the new generations that were the main victims of November 13th, a union that is joint together by the deep desire to defend that word Freedom.

Paris Attacks Nov. 13 2015

L.A. Cuellar, all rights reserved.

Another thing that has impressed me about the french, is their culture to debate and specially in moments of crisis like this one. When you arrive to places related to the attacks like Le Bataclan or La Place de la République, you will find during the whole day groups of people that gather together to debate, not about what happened but instead about what they have to do now to change or overcome this situation.

Paris Attacks Nov. 13 2015

L.A. Cuellar, all rights reserved.

French love deeply to debate, with ideas, with criteria and debate between two people, can easily evolve to a huge crowd of 20 or 30 people, where the word of every person that wants to speak is heard and respected and at the same time refuted by the ones that don’t agree in the most respectful ambience. I’ve seen in those debates people from different religions, social status, color of skin or education level exchanging their points of view and constructing a productive debate to advance to concrete ideas and actions. It shows the evolution of a society where the differences are accepted and can live together, an idea which is completely opposite to the idea of the terrorist of a society where there could only exist one way to think and live.

Paris Attacks Nov. 13 2015

The flavor that remains in my heart, my mind and my soul after all these days being in the middle of the people and the places of the attacks is a flavor of bittersweet, a mix between the deep sadness, the immense courage and decision of the french people to show that they are not afraid and they will fight for their freedom until the end by keep living their daily life with no restrictions, which for me has been the first and most important kickback that the people of France has gave to the terrorist. I don’t know what’s going to happen next, but what I’m really sure is that the seed for a change in the french society have been sown past November 13th and it will keep growing big nourished by the courage and freedom of the french society.

Here are the images I made in all these 5 days, hope they help you to understand a bit what I felt.

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Cheers!