OaKoAk Paints The Streets


Written by Tshepo Mokoena
Photos and illustrations by OaKoAk
13 Monday 13th June 2011

If the world were actually just one big colouring book, we'd all be living in the minds of French street artist, OaKoAk. He works quickly, stamping the streets with his own quirky and irreverent brand of humourous art. But hey, don't be calling him an artist now; he sees his work as separate from any sort of high-brow community. We spoke to him about the meaning of reclaiming the streets as a canvas and the process that ultimately leads to his playful pieces.                                                                
How long have you been adorning the streets with your work?

I started in 2006 doing a few portraits on the walls but it was really in 2007 that I began making my urban interventions.

We love how you make the 2D interact with the 3D. What inspired you to first start playing with every-day street architecture?

I live in an old industrial city through which I love to wander. I’ve always loved its little details that I used to document in photographs, and I started imagining what else it could be. That’s pretty much how it started.

What's your creative/design background like?

I have none. I‘m self-taught. My background is actually miles away from art.
We've seen that you're based in France at the moment. How involved are you in street art movements in your area?

I’m not involved in any movement. I really am more a kind of a loner. But, there are several street artists that create in the city I live in that I greatly appreciate.

How do you react to other street artists who imitate your style, and play with their surroundings in a humourous way?

I find it great. The streets are for everyone and everyone should be able to play with them. Moreover, seeing what other street artists do is very inspirational. And I’m not the first to have played with the street’s elements and I certainly won’t be the last. The more people create in the streets, the better they are!

What drives you to make new pieces now?

Still wandering around, discovering new streets and buildings. And my imagination.

How long do you typically work on one creation?

It really depends. The way it always works is that I find a spot that inspires me, I take measurements and I also take a couple of pictures. Then I start making some sketches and finally, I paint what I’ll stick on and take a picture of what I just did. It can take anywhere from a few minutes to several hours.

Which of your own pieces do you think is your favourite? And who else are you looking to right now for visual inspiration?

In my recent work, I love The Scream (inspired by Munch - see top image). In general I love the small pieces where I don’t need to intervene a lot because it’s the urban environment that is the most meaningful (i.e the caravan, the concrete blocks)

How do you want or expect people to react to your work?

I would only wish that it makes them smile or that it echoes their own experiences and reference points.

And what's next on the agenda for OaKoAk?

A book will probably be published by a French editor this autumn. Plus, I’m now working with The Outsiders, the emerging artist division of the Lazarides gallery for editions and I will present some new works in a group exhibition this winter.

To be the first to see his latest experiments, keep up with OaKoAk's newest pieces on his blog here.

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