Interview: Oakoak

Saint-Étienne sensation OakOak’s hilarious, imaginative, irreverent and sometimes a little macabre street work has filled column inches from BBC Brazil to Beijing’s biggest daily newspaper… Daubing simple graffiti and paintings on urban features – often the broken ones – OakOak does what street art does best, amuse and inspire people of all ages and demographics by appropriating the city’s less appealing elements.

OakOak is a street artist, but he is not a fine artist painting in public. His work, either on the streets of his native St Etienne, France, or made on his travels, is opportunistic and never “authorized”. He is untrained in art and works full-time in an office. Whilst his favorite artist is Amedeo Modigliani, he cites his main influences as football, comic books, video games and his home town. (source: Vertical Gallery)

Presently, Oakaok is having his debut USA solo show “Let’s Play” at the Vertical Gallery in Chicago, October 3 – 31, 2015.

Special thanks to Patrick of Vertical Gallery for putting me in touch with Oakoak.

20151001_145951Hi Oakoak! Tell us a little bit about yourself: where are you from, what got you interested in art , and how did you get started in the urban art scene?
Hi, I come from France, Saint-Etienne. I started my interventions in the streets in 2006. Basically, I like to use the street as a big canvas and to play with the imperfections of the streets, and the walls.

Have you taken any art classes?
No, my studies were very different from Art..

What is your preferred medium and why?
I really like to paint on paper and then to paste it in the streets. I like very much the preparation at home, with music, I like to cut the paper when it’s ready. And I like also paper because it’s ephemeral. I like this Theory.

How do you go about creating your art piece? How do you choose a wall/environment?
I walk a lot in the streets, and I look everywhere. And when the inspiration comes to and I know exactly what to do in that place. Sometimes I can walk few minutes, or a lot of hours. Sometimes I will have an idea in a place where I walk in front every day..

I imagine you walking the streets and having million ideas just by looking at things and how can you transform them into works of art. Am I off base here or close to the reality? What goes on in your head?
Hahah, I don’t really know, I imagine that it’s the same for each artist. Sometimes the inspiration is here, and sometimes there is nothing in my head.
Sideshow Bloom
How much does your art affect or influence your everyday life and are there any role models or artists who inspired you?
Actually I can’t walk in a street without looking for imperfections, or a hole in a wall .

About the artists there are a lot of that I really like.  I like the works of Pejac, SPY, ELEE, fra biancoshock.

Has your style developed throughout the years?
I imagine yes, the way how I paint changes with the years. Some stuff can be shorter to do than before (preparation etc etc). I imagine that also my drawing has changed a little, my references too.

King KongWhat are your thoughts on the way the internet is influencing the artworld?
It’s a great thing. People can see a lot of works that otherwise couldn’t see without internet. Instagram and other social media outlets allow to show your work everywhere, and to see the different works of so many artists.

Do you travel to do street art or do you do street art when you travel?
Hum, before, I did street art when I traveled. But now as I’m invited to do my art, it’s changing, and more and more I travel to do street art. And that’s great because I really like to travel, discover new countries, new cities, new people.

Street art is still considered vandalism, how is it for you to go out and paint in the street? Did you ever have any problems with the law?
Actually, just once I had a problem with cops in a old factory; but people see street art today differently and it’s easier to do it. It really depends on where you are. When I was in China, it was more difficult to do it then in England for example…;)

You are in Chicago for your solo show at the Vertical Gallery and you also worked on some street art pieces on the streets of Chicago. Could you tell us how is your experience like and what are you learning from it?
Chicago is a great place. It’s my first time here but I really like this city and the artists that I met (ELEE, Hebru  ..) I would like to stay more because there is too many things and some interventions to do.
Modern Times in Chicago
What have been your most challenging and rewarding piece of work thus far?
I really liked do the Moe’s tavern in the old factory. The place was amazing and so perfect to do that intervention.

What do you do when you are not creating art? What are your hobbies?
I like soccer, and music. I listen music all the time, and I also like comics.

What’s next for you? What shows or projects do you have planned?
I will have a new show next year in paris, and I have a project in Netherland and Belgium for the end of the year.

Bruce LeeAny words of advice for aspiring new artists?
Just let’s play!! The goal is to take pleasure…

Thanks Oakoak!


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