Social media has become a huge and unavoidable part of our daily lives since the turn of the century, with platforms such as Facebook, Clubhouse, Twitter and Instagram providing a global platform for conversations on every topic imaginable.
While this has been a huge positive in terms of internet users everywhere being able to build new relationships and gain insights into different subjects from a wider range of people, it’s also left room for the online space to transform into a particularly contentious place where wider social and political discussions are often concerned.
These platforms have also transformed the way that we define ‘community’ in recent years, especially over the last twelve months when social media has been our main outlet for communication overall. These days, whoever you are and whatever your interests, there is a community out there for you online.
These are points that are highlighted fantastically within the work of London artist Oli Epp, whose most recent exhibition, Friends And Friends Of Friends, aims to ‘highlight the potential of a globally connected world through the example of a community of young artists’.
Displayed in collaboration with Aindrea Emelife at Austria’s Schlossmuseum, Friends And Friends Of Friends saw Oli showcase his own work, as well as pieces by fellow artists such as Dominique Fung, Daniel Boccato and Harrison Pierce, to name just a few. Together, the group looked to showcase how the art community are able to come together both online and offline in order to bring attention to their own work, as well as the work of their peers.
Pieces ranged in styles on an incredible spectrum, some a little easier to interpret at face value while some more conceptual pieces required a little extra speculation from the viewer. There were sculptures, installations, paintings, collage work – Friends and Friends Of Friends did an incredible job of spotlighting just what a wide array of art styles are being explored by the world’s young artists today, as well as just how many different ways the subject matter of ‘online community’ can be interpreted by creatives.
In this way, the exhibition was rather self-referential, something which may have been a hidden aim at the core of it.
Friends And Friends Of Friends also showcased the importance of art in the digital age – how the medium can be used by artists to advance global conversations, both online and offline.
It’s not the first time that Oli Epp has explored this idea – plenty of his previous work has found its focus within the exploration of our collective relationship with social media.
Born in 1994, Oli Epp has grown up against the backdrop of a developing online world, having grown in age as social media platforms grew in popularity. It makes perfect sense that social media platforms and the way that we interact with them have been a subject of importance across Oli’s career so far.
According to Oli’s own website, his paintings are heavily inspired by these themes, finding the majority of his inspiration within the digital world. He describes ‘mimicking the screen’ and ‘toying with the physicality of the surface’.
“The flatness and luminosity of his work reflect our complex relationship with technology,” his biography states, “How we use it as extensions of oneself or as a pretence of one’s personality, as a façade.”
It’s an idea that he continues to explore in great detail, having recently had a painting displayed at New York’s Half Gallery, East 4th Street, as part of their Friend Zone exhibition.
Epp’s painting, Painkiller, features an abstract figure with archetypal ‘painkillers’ of the 21st-century – luxury jewels, pills, technology – hidden within its suit, gloved hands reaching up to take some for themselves.
It’s an area of the present day that Oli Epp seems comfortable exploring in great detail – and to great success.
Oli’s newest project, however, seems to speak more to the secondary aim of Friends And Friends Of Friends – showcasing the work of talented upcoming artists.
In a self-funded community art project that he has named Image Dump, Oli has taken over a billboard in Shoreditch for the year ahead, taking the opportunity to display the artwork of his up-and-coming peers in a space that would usually be given to advertisers.
Announcing the project on his Instagram page, Oli said “London has been hurting. Galleries are closed – we need more public art!”
Artists everywhere have submitted work to Oli via social media, with the first billboard – showcasing a painting by Maja Djordjevic – installed on February 18th. It appears that each artist is given the space for a week, giving up to fifty different artists the chance to display their work across the upcoming year.
Oli explained the idea behind Image Dump to Fad Magazine recently, explaining:
“In a time where we are unable to go to galleries to see art and the opportunities for emerging artists and recent graduates have diminished due to the pandemic, community art projects like Image Dump offer emerging artists a chance to exhibit their work in an open space, where the public can engage with it 24/7.”
In our minds, more art is always a good thing! If you are based in London and would like to check out Image Dump for yourself, Oli’s billboard is located at 2 Hoxton Street, Shoreditch. Those outside of London can keep up with the project and get to know the featured artists on the project’s Instagram account.