Street Artist Okuda and his Kaos Temple
BY ANJA FAHS
(Published in The Produktkulturmagazin issue 1 2019)
Sunlight falls obliquely through the high, pointed Gothic windows of the old church, making the geometric patterns on the walls shine like a rainbow. The bright color spectrum conjures a kaleidoscope of patterns and shapes into the room. It is broken only by the jumps of the skaters practising their moves on a half-pipe running across the nave. This unique place in the small town of Llanera, in the Spanish Asturias, is called “Kaos Temple”. The temple has been a pilgrimage destination for skate culture lovers since the church was transformed into a kind of skatepark.
At the end of 2014, Okuda San Miguel came to this place for the first time and marvelled at the spirituality that surrounded it. Here, the well-known Spanish artist was able to work in the most characteristic structures of art history and paint a church with his well-known colourful geometric shapes. This creative project has quickly become an example of cultural agitation and of the promotion of new arts spaces.
Inspired by his legendary work “Kaos Star” Okuda regarded the place as a Kaos Temple. With the help of a crowdfunding campaign, he raised the necessary funds to be able to implement an art project in this space. Today, the church welcomes skaters from all over the world who want to practise in this unique environment. But contemporary art lovers also come to experience how a classical church has been conquered by urban art. Okuda tells us in an interview how the project came about and what “Kaos” means to him.
What does colour mean to you?
Colour is my psychology. It is everything to me. In my art, it symbolises multiculturalism, and freedom.
How did you know about that church in Llanera?
I found out about the church on the Internet, through a picture of it taken by a friend. He put me in touch with them, but they knew my art beforehand, so it was easy to convince them.
Was it the first time you had worked in a church?
Yes, it was. Nowadays I’ve have worked on another two churches, in Denver and Morocco.
We all grew up with great respect for the church and holy places. How did you feel about transforming a “sacred place” into something new and totally different? Did you have any concerns?
I was raised to respect all religions. Through my journeys around the world I’ve come to the conclusion that all religions are the same thing. Personally, I feel closer to religions that respect animal life.
Who came up with the idea to do a skatepark?
The skatepark was already there. That was one of the reasons I fell in love with it.
Did you have to follow any guidelines or observe any restrictions? Or were you completely free in your creativity for this project?
No guidelines, total freedom. That’s one of the main reasons to say yes to a project. I just followed what the architecture of the church asked me to do. It was a perfect combination between classical architecture and the contemporary paintings.
The church is now called Kaos Temple. Is this how you see that place and your art?
That’s the name of the intervention project. I have this iconic piece I’ve been working on for years called Kaos Star, and it also was included in the church. That’s why I decided to name it Kaos Temple.
Do you see a trend in converting abandoned places of worship into things like educational institutions etc.?
I don’t know if it is a trend, but it is something I am into.
How did your special style of art develop?
It comes from a long and substantial evolution, from the lettering I was doing when I started making art and its subsequent evolution towards geometrical forms once I began working inside a studio. That's when I started geometrising everything I saw.
You’re not only a street art artist, you do sculptures and photography as well. What else?
I don’t feel like only being a street artist. I take pictures, do sculptures or embroideries with my mother, I’ve done stained glass too. I am working on new things all the time. I don't want to stop evolving.
With which medium can you best express yourself and your art?
Big buildings, because I feel super free while I am working on them and they are able to change the city's skyline, and for me that’s incredible.
What or who influenced your style? Where do you find inspiration?
My influences and inspiration comes from the history of arts (Magritte, El Bosco, Warhol, Dali, Picasso…) but also from contemporary artists such as Takashi Murakami or Tomokazu Matsuyama. And not to forget ancient cultures from Asia, Africa or South America.
Which was your most important exhibition so far? And why does it mean a lot to you?
My biggest one happened last year, during the Fallas festivities in Valencia, at the Museo del Carmen. It was a big retrospective from my beginnings in art to the latest collaborations with other artists and also latest formats such as mapping or embroidery. I also painted the inside of this classic space and we installed a Kaos Star sculpture right in the middle of the main room.
Please tell us about the project you're currently working on?
I am on the road again after working in my studio for the last two months on pieces for former exhibitions like Urvanity and Theriomorphism VI or coming exhibitions, like in Hong Kong during the Art Basel week. First I am travelling to Tahiti for a couple of walls, and then to La Habana, Lima, Mexico, Philippines…
What else is coming for you in 2019?
Each year is better than the previous one. We are planning collaborations with different brands related to music, a clothing brand, sunglasses…
Is there any specific place or space where you would love to work one day?
I have this thing for abandoned places… Also, my idea is to take the sculptural theme to an architectural level: animal heads that I make in sculpture that can be inhabited in collaboration with an architect.
Okuda was born in Santander, Spain on November 19, 1980. Okuda’s work can be classified as pop surrealism with a clear essence of street art or urban art. His artwork is composed of geometric prints and multicoloured ephemeral architectures that help blend with grey bodies and organic forms. These pieces of artwork often raise contradictions about existentialism, the universe, the infinite, the meaning of life, and the false freedom of capitalism. They help ignite conversations about the clear conflict between modernity and our roots.
Picture credit © Okuda