Epp’s appetite for observation captures private and public encounters of individuals (often himself) over using a sunbed at the tanning salon (Ultra Vain, 2018) to being drunk at the local kebab shop (You Spin Me Right Round, 2018). He has an evident admiration for these people and situations. There’s certainly no clear form of judgement about his subjects. Using a bright, colourful palette, gives sometimes heavy observations a lightness of touch and serves as a vehicle for the idiosyncratic, often irreverent humour that he takes to all subject matter without distinction or deference to hierarchy.
In most of Oli Epp’s contemporary portraits, the bodies, obeying the laws of evolution, have been reduced to frail membranes wandering through the margins of the compositions, in which identical hypertrophied heads, deprived of mouths, eyes and ears, seem to have swallowed them whole. The only things spared are the branded accessories embodying the promise of individuality despite the commercial success of these almost religious symbols or the degree of ambiguity in the inscriptions to be found in tattooists’ studios or on rubber bracelets. These objects are regurgitated on the surface of the canvas and are subject to a naturalistic treatment in an allegorical way, similar to the secular painting of the 17th century, where the physical presence of everyday objects is a symptom of transcendence. Each of his works begin life as vectorial drawings and then take in a wide spectrum of the history of art as well as his personal mentors and masters. To view them in real life creates a stark understanding of why art is so important to see with your eyes rather than any of it’s digital counterparts.