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Okuda San Miguel: Street Surrealism From Santander To Tokyo

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The kaleidoscopic work of Spanish artist Okuda San Miguel is decorating our pages this month.

The scale of Okuda's work is often vast - not just covering large walls, but in some cases repurposing and completely transforming whole buildings. For a 'street artist', his influences are unorthodox, calling to mind turn-of-the-century surrealism, but with his own graphical, pop art twist. He also works in product design, sculpture and digital art.

How did you get started as an artist and how did you develop into working across many mediums?

I started to paint in old factories and lost railways in Santander around 1997 and [studied] Fine Arts at the University of Madrid in 2000. I discovered a lot of different techniques there, but I've always followed my own way and style. I love to work in different formats, techniques, materials and environments.

How much do you plan large-scale murals before starting work?

I never plan before arriving at the place in question and I never do sketches. I prefer to draw directly on the walls. It's way more fun.

If you don't plan before arriving at a location, what stages does a piece go through before it's completed?

I just stare at the wall and think about the composition, searching inside my iconography and the place's cultural background. That is when I start to sketch, but directly on the wall, sometimes with a photo reference.

First I do the big composition, and then start painting a sky, or the background in colors, and at the same time I start placing smaller details, animals and humans, to get the interaction between the elements. The third step is to draw plants or trees or mountains.

my personal god is the bosch

Does the geometric nature of your work make it quite demanding, because you have to be so precise?

My very unique and special geometric compositions make it demanding, of course. My goal is to improve all the time, with higher quality and better artworks, to always keep growing and never stop searching for evolution.

I can see a strong surrealist influence in your work, which is not a common thing in street art. How did that influence find its way into your work?

I discovered [surrealism] while studying Art History at university and realised my own feelings are very close to surrealism. My personal god is The Bosch. I also love the work of Dali, Magritte, Ernst and many more.

Why is Hieronymus Bosch your personal god?

Because he is the best surrealist painter - the only one that painted fantastic features not based on reality - but 500 years before surrealism.

What is your favourite piece you have completed recently?

My Kaos Temple church in Spain, and my most recent and secret project in the USA. It will go public in April, so stay tuned.

You have also done some product design and physical work, like sculpture. Is this something you want to explore further in the future?

I am very interested in big installations for public spaces. I would like to work with an architect to make a building with a sculptural feeling.

What are your plans for the near future?

Keep working on the highest level in my studio and in public spaces. My next solo shows are at Stolen Space (London) in February and Corey Heldford in LA in April, and some amazing street projects in America, Asia and Europe. Don't miss my Instagram - @okudart.

Sam Walby

by Sam Walby (he/him)

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