Rising Star

A newcomer in the fast lane

From the London Art School to art heaven - Oli Epp has made it in a flash. Even if he doesn't want to be labeled an »Instragram artist,« he owes his success to social media.

by Luwi Funke, March 01, 2022

At the latest since the »New Now« sale at the Phillips auction house in London, art lovers both nationally and internationally have been pricking up their ears at the name Oli Epp. There, on July 13, 2021, a painting by the British artist titled Whistleblower (2017) was sold for an impressive £144,900 (equivalent to around €169,679). The painting playfully depicts the head of a referee in a stylized manner, with his whistle photorealistically next to it. The original estimate of £10,000-15,000 - outbid by almost a factor of ten. But where does the hype around this newcomer come from?

Whistleblower by Oli Epp

Oli Epp

Whistleblower

Found at Phillips, London Auction
New Now, Lot 66
13. Jul - 13. Jul 2021
Estimate: 10.000 - 15.000 GBP
Price realised: 144.900 GBP
Details

Painter Oli Epp was born in London in 1994, where he still lives and works. In 2017, he completed his Bachelor of Arts in Fine Arts at the City & Guilds of London Art School. Since then he has been working as an artist. Already, his work can be found in the holdings of the V&A Museum (London), the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, as well as in the collections of the Ruth Borchard Next Generation Collection and the Hall Art Foundation of mega-collector Andy Hall. In June 2022, Perrotin Gallery will present a solo show of his work in its New York branch. In addition, Epp is a curator and cultural facilitator who co-founded the renowned PLOP artist residency in London. The exhibition Friends of Friends: Artistic Communities in the Age of Social Media, which he co-curated, also ran at the Schlossmuseum in Linz, Austria, until the beginning of 2021. It presented international artists who have created a creative community with the help of social networks.

Blazing success on Instagram

Social media also plays a key role for Epp and his success. In 2017, a well-known collector bought a picture from Epp's graduate exhibition and posted it on Instagram. »The next day, I had more offers to buy than pictures,« Epp explained in an interview with WELT AM SONNTAG. Thousands of followers and interested people who wanted to buy or exhibit his art were added. By now, more than 32,000 people follow him on Instagram.

With its clear forms and compositions, as well as the references to digitalization, pop and Internet culture, Epp's art captures the zeitgeist. It is therefore sometimes referred to as »instagramable,« while he himself is also considered an Instagram artist. Epp is critical of these designations because they suggest that his art is made solely for the social media channel: »I don't want to be labeled an Instagram artist. It's true that the platform is an important part of my story, and I get much more attention from it than I would if I simply did an exhibition,« he says in the WELT AM SONNTAG. Nevertheless, he tells stayinart.com in another interview, he believes it is relevant to establish himself outside the virtual world as well. This is how he wants to secure his long-term success and maintain his inner balance. Nevertheless, there's no denying that his art works flawlessly digitally thanks to its simple forms, clear lines and straightforward compositions.

Observer of consumer culture

The sketches for his works are also usually created digitally - in Photoshop or with the help of apps such as Procreate or iDoodle. He then projects them onto a canvas to blend his realistically painted details of acrylic and oil paint with graphic airbrush and linear masking techniques. His highly stylized paintings mostly depict human figures reduced to object status. With empty eyes, often sexualized but without any erotic charge, they are reduced to geometric or serpentine forms. They often have large heads, exaggerated limbs, are flattened, almost cartoonesque. The facial features of the grotesque figures are anonymous; instead, the focus is on their clothing, the brands they wear, and their desires. Thus, a sober social critique can be glimpsed behind the whimsical forms in bright pop aesthetics - a visual allusion to themes such as consumption, relationships, sexual objectification, and the commercialization of art.

Death by Chocolate by Oli Epp

Oli Epp

Death by Chocolate

Found at Phillips, London Auction
20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Lot 145
4. Mar - 4. Mar 2022
Estimate: 30.000 - 50.000 GBP
Price realised: 100.800 GBP
Details

»I'm concerned with the relationship to ourselves and others as we experience it through screens in the digital age. I use pop as a medium to move between real and digital spaces; advertising, for example, connects these two realms. In my paintings, I address commercial consumer culture,« Epp tells Monopol Magazine. As an artist, he says, his interest lies in depicting today's culture and society without reflecting his personal opinion or a moral. He sees himself as a quiet observer who depicts the now in his works, which in turn are social and political, but without any attitude.

In 2017, Epp coined the term »post-digital pop« to describe the aesthetics of his works. Post-digital, however, is not meant to refer to the time after digitalism. Rather, he means the relationship between humans and digital space. In an interview with Carl Kostyal Gallery, Epp says, »My work is a personal response to living in an overwhelming consumerist digital reality where everything is relentlessly commodified, including ourselves, and where the notion that you can keep your digital identity separate from your personal sense of self seems increasingly fragile and constantly on the verge of collapse.«Art.Salon

Auction results of the artist Oli Epp

Oli Epp - Untitled
Auction
First Open: Post-War and Contemporary Art Online
October 2023
Christies, Brussels (Online Auction)
Est.: 1.000 - 2.000 GBP
Realised: 5.292 GBP
Details
Oli Epp - Red
Auction
Evening & Day Editions
September 2023
Phillips, London Auction
Est.: 1.000 - 1.500 GBP
Realised: 1.207 GBP
Details
Oli Epp - Bon Voyage
Auction
Evening & Day Editions
September 2023
Phillips, London Auction
Est.: 1.000 - 1.500 GBP
Realised: 1.270 GBP
Details
Oli Epp - Multi Multitasking
Auction
Evening & Day Editions
September 2023
Phillips, London Auction
Est.: 1.000 - 2.000 GBP
Realised: 1.270 GBP
Details
Oli Epp - Choking Hazard
Auction
New Now
September 2023
Phillips, New York Auction
Est.: 30.000 - 40.000 USD
Realised: 27.940 USD
Details
Oli Epp - You Spin Me Right Round
Auction
Editions & Works on Paper
April 2023
Phillips, New York Auction
Est.: 400 - 600 USD
Realised: 762 USD
Details
Oli Epp - Multi Multitasking
Auction
Evening & Day Editions
January 2023
Phillips, London Auction
Est.: 1.000 - 1.500 GBP
Realised: 1.638 GBP
Details
Oli Epp - The Force
Auction
Post-War and Contemporary Art Day Sale
October 2022
Christies, London
Est.: 30.000 - 50.000 GBP
Realised: 37.800 GBP
Details
Oli Epp - Quarantine
Auction
INTERSECT: Online Auction
September 2022
Phillips, Online Auction
Est.: 12.000 - 20.000 HKD
Realised: 12.600 HKD
Details
Oli Epp - Pringles Duck
Auction
Modern & Contemporary Day Auction
June 2022
Sothebys, London
Est.: 4.000 - 6.000 GBP
Realised: 27.720 GBP
Details
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