Street art is extraordinary in its ability to bring our attention to the mundane aspects of urban life, often transmuting the banal into the remarkable. We've seen this previously in the works of artists like London's Banksy, Montreal's Roadsworth and many more worldwide.
St. Etienne, France's Oakoak takes a humouristic approach to the blemishes of urban decay, adding touches of visual whimsy and wisecracking narratives for the eyeballs.
He zooms in on the ultra-ordinary like bent gates, pavement cracks and peeling paint, giving life to details that aren't even usually consciously registered. Oakoak explains how he combines observation with work that he does onsite and at home:
Since I come from Saint Etienne, an old industrial city which is now in reconversion, I have the need to make my city less “grey” and at the same time, funnier. Humor is really important to me. It’s definitely the most important element in what I do.
My main interest is giving importance to places and objects that people don’t notice anymore. I walk a lot every day and that’s how I get to find new attractive places with urban elements such as broken walls for example. When I see something interesting during my walks, I measure it and study it, and I come back later to make the collage. I prefer to prepare the drawings and drafts at home.
At times, Oakoak uses photography and timing to turn ephemeral things like a ray of sunlight into yet another street artwork.
We like the size of these small interventions, which, like their inspirations, could almost go unnoticed, yet do add greatly to making these streets seem much more light-hearted in atmosphere. Sometimes Oakoak's works feature original characterizations; at other times there are visual references to the popular culture of comics, and even other street artists.
Oakoak relies on collages, stencils, paint and adhesives to transform these forgotten minutiae of the city, which despite their apparent insignificance, make our cities what they are. Oakoak's day job as a "pen pusher" and his lack of any formal training is no barrier to scouring his hometown, looking for chances to beautify his city in his own way. That's perhaps why street art is so appealing: it's accessible to so many, and can be the quickest way to pass on a message, whatever it may be. More over at Oakoak's website and Facebook page.