Oliver Malin

Le Cool 2

Artist Oliver Malin has done the most London art show you possibly can. He’s painted people in takeaways on takeaway boxes. And, because it’s impossible to get exhibition space in London, he’s hanging the whole show at the world famous Marathon Kebab bar in Camden. Seriously – you have to go, drink eat and look. It’s open on December 13th and 14th. Do it.

So Oli, how or why did you come up with the idea to paint people at takeaways on takeaway boxes? 
The idea spawned from a late night visit to a pizza parlour on Kilburn High Road, it must have been Wooden Oven Pizza as that’s open till the birds start tweeting (singing and not actually tweeting). This one guy looked really transfixed by his thoughts, sort of staring into the abyss, whilst also semi-enjoying his dinner, whereas his pizza box was really happy and upbeat, adorned with a cartoon Italian chef with an oversized hat, (I think it’s a pretty generic pizza box) so it occurred to me that this juxtaposition (the box and subject) was quite an interesting cross-section to explore. I must add as a side note I have wandered down this garden path previously when it comes to painting on found objects, as the first major body of work I churned out was depictions of everyday scenes from contemporary life on crushed cans. In essence, I think connecting the subject matter with a real-life context is of some value even if traditional thinking devalues something by virtue of not being on a canvas, let’s not forget cavemen only had walls i.e. what was available in their immediate environment to communicate – communication always outdoes form.

Did you sit in the corner hiding behind the fruit machine that never pays out waiting for the perfect subjects? 
Ah, you’ve been on Instagram and now I have to explain myself. So the bulk of last year was spent bumbling around the place, painting people on pizza boxes and discovering I am vaguely lactose intolerant, whereas 2017 has been devoted to a new study of the interior life of betting shops in the UK, which is one of biggest silent addictions, often affecting those that have the least in the first place. I am hoping to complete all ten of the paintings before I turn 32 in September, so it’s like a really undramatic version of “24″ but in answer to your question, I try and blend into the betting shop environments like a chameleon. I try and avoid those weird high street casinos like ‘Cashino’.

The exhibition is going to be in the legendary Marathon kebab shop – that’s a genius stroke, it has food, drink and toilets… how did hosting it there happen?
Marathon is legendary and has been in business since 1976, 41 years and, yes, it has toilets. The reason they have lasted so long, beyond the food being excellent, is that they are so friendly but equally supportive of the arts. Many people have a good Marathon story and Amy Winehouse claimed it as her favorite Kebabery, so it should really have a blue plaque outside. In answer to your question, some friends had a gig there a few years back so it had stuck in my mind ever since as a perfect venue for an art exhibition connected to take-aways!

Where can we see more of your work?
Well, first of all, you can see the work in the flesh in a couple of weeks at Marathon, event link here. Then perhaps visit my website, then if you really want to indulge me, listen to The Rats of London podcast. 

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Interview: Josh Jones


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