At times it’s difficult to comprehend the power of the Internet. A phenomenon that makes connecting people, cultures and ideas as easy as the click of a mouse. So was the case that connected diverse, mixed media artist, Okuda San Miguel with the individuals that make up the collective known as the Church Brigade, who recently allowed San Miguel to transform a 100-year-old Spanish church into a true work of art.
A building that was originally designed by Asturian architect Manuel del Busto in 1912, the Church of Santa Barbara in Llanera, Asturias, was transformed into a skateboarders dream – equipped with a solid halfpipe – and christened as Kaos Temple. It was when San Miguel came across this skate park on the Internet that he noticed the blank, towering walls and vaulted ceilings; a canvas that he knew he could transform into an artistic masterpiece. With a frenzy of colors, shapes and structures that engulfs the viewer, San Miguel and his crew worked for seven days to create a truly mind blowing mural.
The web may have brought the well-deserved artistic recognition to San Miguel, but his style of diverse colors and individualistic interpretations of everyday life have always been in his portfolio of creations. Unique sculptures, murals that can be seen in dozens of cities around the world, canvases, tapestries and mixed media make up his repertoire of artistic capabilities, each uniquely different in their own ways.
With the power of the web also working in our favor, we had the chance to connect and chat with the Spanish artist. He gives us the low down on where his geometric style originates, the process of tackling a massive church canvas and why he loves coloring the world.
Tell me about yourself; where did you grow up, and how did you come to be an artist?
I was born in Santander, small city in the north of Spain. I’ve been drawing since I was child. Always drawing in the last row of class at school.
I started painting in the streets in 1997; mostly in old factories and lost railway walls. In the beginning I used to do letters and 3D compositions, sometimes with more elements like puppets. However I kept growing, step by step in the direction of my own pop-surrealistic style.
How has Madrid influenced your style and creativity?
I moved to Madrid in 2000 to study Fine Arts at Complutense University. Those academic years influenced me more than Madrid itself. I was introduced to artists like El Bosco, Magritte and Ernst. Madrid served as a bigger place to show my art and where I met a lot of graffiti writers and street artists.
You attended University and received your Bachelors of Fine Arts. What is your opinion on being given a grade on something like art that is so subjective? Would you have been able to develop your style to the degree that you have without schooling?
The best thing I got out of the University is that I learned different techniques; different materials to paint on, to sculpt on wood, metal, or stone. I think I started to develop my own style because at the same time I was painting in the streets, I was also learning a lot in class.
Where do all of the geometric shapes and patterns in your pieces come from? Were you influenced by someone or something specifically?
The geometric architectures and volumetric constructions come from my work with letters. I started to transform those letters into circles, triangles and rhomboids, and later I mixed these colorful geometrics with my studio work, which is surrealistic compositions. My love for surrealism comes from my academic season.
How have you seen your own style develop over the last ten years?
I think that around 2007 my art started to become more mature, personal and deep. I mixed my geometric, super colorful street art with my surrealistic world from my studio work. In 2009 I did this world tour of exhibitions called IAM Project, with great artists like Nano4814 and SAN. With that tour, I feel like I grew up and was able to hone my style.
Your street art can be seen in several different countries. How do you get the opportunity to get your artwork in such culturally diverse countries?
The magic of the internet.
Anyone can do their own marketing thing. You only have to work a lot in your art and show that you are lively and a hard worker in your networks. Of course, quality artwork is key. Traveling and giving away my colorful art to the world makes me happy. The contact and feedback from different cultures inspires me, and my work, all the time. Visiting new countries is the best motivation to keep creating.
Your sculptures all seem to have a deeper meaning to them, whether it be socially, existentially, or politically. How do you decide what you will create to represent your own emotions?
I think that you have to take a look to all my artwork to understand the meanings and concepts I deal with. To try to understand it by watching only one work…that is just a small piece of a bigger piece, that is all my artwork as whole. I try to keep my own way; working the same ideas, and always with my own iconography.
Talk to me about your work with the 100-year-old church now dubbed, Kaos Temple. How did you become involved with this project? Where do you even begin when working with such a massive canvas? How long did it take you to complete and do you think you’ll ever make any additions to the incredibly, beautiful piece of work?
Again, the magic of the Internet. Just saw a photo from the church and the skate park inside, and I fell in love with it. That mix of old and new told me that I had to paint my own world inside.
I met the Church Brigade guys and saw the space in person and I started to think the way to get the money to do it with my manager and my creative team (Ink and Movement). We got some (huge) help from brands like Red Bull, Miller Division, Soketines and Montana Colors. I worked only 7 days to do the production with the help of my 3 assistants: MisterPiro, Pablo Hatt, and Antonyo Marest. Three big lifts, five different colors of acrylic paint, and 500 spray paint cans from Montana Colors 94. Plus, let’s not forget, the filming team at Vietnam Studio.
Give me the rundown of a typical day in the studio. Are you listening to any music? Are you being inspired by your surroundings?
I listen to music 24 hours a day. I love music. I need it to create. Electronic music, indie, rap, trap, electrocumbia, flamenco. Artists like Jamie Woon, MIA, Caribou, Yosi Horikawa, Van She, Jon Hopkins, Kisses, Girafage, John Talabot, Teeel, Apparat, Holy Ghost, Neon Indian, Miami Horror, Poolside, Grimes, Dye, Darius. Of course I am inspired everyday by my environment: movies, music, fashion, life, party, clubs, afterhours, plants, animals, parks, travels, food. When I am on an airplane I feel the quiet more and am inspired while traveling over the clouds and listening to music.
Keep up with Okuda via his Instagram.