FRONTRUNNER Meets Okuda San Miguel
His Surrealist – or rather, Pop Surrealist – works are monumental, eccentric and emanate positive vibrations with a strong emotional impact thanks to colour and harmonic shapes. Óscar San Miguel Erice aka Okuda San Miguel (b. Santander, 1980) is a Spanish artist who currently lives and works in Madrid, where he graduated in Fine Arts from the Complutense University. The name Okuda was found by chance, inspired by the credits of a video game he used to play with his brother. His artistic production ranges from paintings to sculpture to performance, but above all are his large-scale murals. “My first large-format graffiti was in 1996 in an abandoned space in Santander, at that time it was all typography.” His works are inspired by artists such as da Vinci, Magritte, Yayoi Kusama, Dalí and Takashi Murakami and can be admired in the United States, France, Brazil, United Kingdom, Chile, Japan, Peru, Italy, Spain, Mexico, Ukraine, India, Mali and Morocco.
Each new work mixes cultures and colours in precise, geometric shapes with the aim of recovering abandoned places needing a new life, in search of a new identity to be reborn. This is one of the prerogatives of street art, but through symbology, animals and headless bodies, Okuda’s work raises questions about the contradictions of existentialism, the meaning of life, and the false freedom of capitalism. These aspects, especially at the beginning of his career where street art was not as widely recognised, were not easy to represent.
FRONTRUNNER is pleased to present a conversation with Okuda San Miguel.
Exactly where does Okuda find inspiration to create works such as “Mona Lisa” in France, “11 Mirages to the Freedom” in Morocco, or “Kaos Temple”, the “Sistine Chapel of Street Art in Spain?”
The places where I work are conceived organically. I prefer that they be places very different in formats and surfaces, in countries where i have never been. The buildings are canvases that must be understood and felt.
What is, or what should be, the role of urban art today?
Urban art is any artistic manifestation that is made in public space, it is not only mural painting, sculpture is also present and interacts with the environment. Therefore, their role is to impress, to thrill, beyond their position in the world of art and the level of the artist.
Do you think that street art today has obtained the right value, the right space in the context of art?
I think that a sign of their position is the presence of urban artists with their studio work in international fairs, exposing the quality and the recognition of their work. In addition, the new audiences clearly know their language, many have grown up with it. I would speak of new contemporary art.
You’ve also made some works in churches, an unusual place for a street artist. Can you tell me about your 2016 intervention in the Kaos Temple in Llanera, Spain? The abandoned, Gothic-style church has now become a skate park, which was designed in 1912 by architect Manuel del Busto in honor of Santa Barbara.
It was the first media project I had and it came about in an atypical way. I fell in love with the space from the first time and I wanted to intervene in it, yes or yes. In order to carry it out we had to do a crowdfunding and look for sponsors, we did not have money but it was possible. The project was wonderful, we created a coexistence between contemporary language and classical architecture that marked a before and after. After that, other similar projects came.
What does it mean for you to paint in an indoor environment, especially religious imagery, since street art is generally open-air?
Intervening interior spaces is more complex and suffered. Access to work spaces, exposure to paint without ventilation and lighting… condition the work a lot. But the result is always worth it. Let’s remove the labels of street art yes or no, they are still public spaces.
You are also a sculptor and have created some exhibitions, what is the dimension in which you feel most at ease: in an indoor or outdoor place?
Both. Each piece takes on a special meaning depending on the space, the format and the moment. At the beginning of my career, everything was illegal, but I never ran into any problems because all the spaces were degraded and abandoned so no one saw anything wrong with it. I intervened spaces that had no value for society and turned them into something beautiful. Paintings, sculptures, looms, digital art…I need to express myself in all kinds of formats and spaces to be happy.
What project are you working on now and what are the next ones?
Right now we are preparing a large exhibition in Madrid for my 25th anniversary with large-format works. I have all kinds of projects open; an exhibition and installation of sculptural work in China, an architecture project that I’m looking forward to talking about, a lot of innovation within digital art, and many special collaborations. As if that were not enough, we have just inaugurated my new studio in Madrid, a unique studio that will be open to the public with exhibitions, talks and workshops.