So tell us, Where did the name “OKOK” come from?
I picked it myself. Since I grew up a graffiti writer, I didn’t want to use my real name. OKOK can be copy pasted and doubled forever. Inflation. That gives me the chance to create seamless patterns out of my name. Also, I want to put up tags with my name and it’s a lot easier to do OKOK tags than Thomas Karl-Johan Gunnarsson tags.
How would you characterize your work? I see a lot of continuous lines almost as if it’s knitted, how did you come across this technique?
Since these questions got sent to me, I’ve moved into my first real art studio. Here, I’m finally painting on canvas, creating bigger pieces, with acrylics and spray. That means that the language I speak has developed. It’s still a lot of lines, depth and composition, but also color and texture. I look at my art as an adventure – as travels deeper into an unknown Universe – a place no one has ever visited before me. In this Universe, I’m an explorer putting down observations on paper and canvas. Through doing a lot of art, I discover new ways of combining forms. I’m a true believer in quality through quantity.
What does art mean to OKOK? How does it play into your everyday life?
It is my everyday life. It’s a part of everything. It’s my purpose in life. It’s why I was put on this planet. It’s the first thing I think about when I wake up and the last thing I think about before I fall asleep. Usually, I’m dreaming about my art. I’m trying to build a better version of myself through painting. I listen to audio books and podcasts while painting. I meditate while painting. I think a lot about who I am and who I want to become while painting. I’m forming my own future with art as a companion taking me further, learning more about myself and the world we live in.
How do people react to your work? It has a very minimalist feel but still loads going on between the lines?
It differs a lot from person to person. Some fall in love with my work, some just see it as meaningless lines. I can’t really blame those who don’t get it, since I often don’t get it myself. It just happens to be what I paint. It just happens to be why I’m here. The more I paint, the stronger the urge to do it.
Who/what are your artistic inspirations?
Lil Wayne, Drake, Pusha T, Germes Gang, Adek, Katsu, PDog, Klops, Sicoer, Alone, HNR, Uzi, Staze,The K-Line Connection, fashion, India, dirt and space.
Your work seems to have a steady palette of black, white and gray, has color found its way into your work at any point, or do you stay completely away from?
These last 6 weeks been all about color. I used to be afraid of color, but not anymore. I mean, using black and white is a classic concept. It’s timeless. Mixing in colors makes everything a lot harder.
Explain your creative process, your bio mentions that you have a “meditative” state of creation.
Usually, 75% of my attention – while painting – is on whatever book I’m listening to at the moment. I create as a machine. I let my unconsciousness decide where to go. I’m a fan of results. I’m a fan of quantity. Being in the middle of work, creating art, is not what I enjoy. I enjoy putting a finished piece to the side to start on a new one. So, while painting, I need to do other stuff to make the most out of the hours spent. I’m thirsting for knowledge and need to not waste time. I’m listening to at least two books per week while painting, and when finished, I go home to read physical books.
What’s the big difference in exhibiting abroad vs. the U.S.? What do you like and hate about both?
Almost all my exhibitions so far are put together by myself. I come from an entrepreneur background, working as a music manager, so none of the exhibitions I’ve had, in Sweden and the US, were at “real” galleries. I’ve been a part of group exhibitions at galleries in Osaka and Kyoto, but didn’t go there myself. I’ve got my first exhibition at a respected gallery in Sweden next year and I’m looking forward to it like kids look forward to Christmas. So, I can’t really answer that question, yet.
At what point did you see art as a way of impacting the world?
I don’t look at art that way. At least not my art. I just need to paint, that’s all. Someone/something gave me this task and I will work on it for the rest of my life. I’m trying to make more of an impact as a human being. Trying to be a good friend and a good partner. Giving love to the people around me. Making them believe in themselves. Making them follow their hearts and think big.
What started the @TagsAndThrows Instagram? Folks still see Graff as a form of vandalism, was this more of education or of recognition for writers?
TagsAndThrows is all about passion. I love tags and throw-ups and I want to share my love for this art form with the rest of the world. I want to give the bombing fiends their fix, as well as educate those outside this subculture about it.
Who are some Graff writers that introduced you to the tagging scene?
The K-Line Connection and first and foremost Dior, Area and Sesam, also known as the Midnight Runners.
What is one goal that you have as an artist that you haven’t achieved yet? What do you think is preventing you from achieving this?
I’ve just started. This is the beginning of my third year as an artist. I haven’t accomplished anything yet and I’m not painting because I want to accomplish anything. I’m painting because I need to. My goal is to create the life I want for myself and my loved ones. Getting the chance, economically, to paint a few hours per day for the rest of my life is enough. I want to travel the world and do tags in as many cities as possible.
What do you think art is missing? What is an artist’s responsibility to the culture they participate in?
I’ve recently started to dig deeper into today’s art world, and to be honest, it all seems kinda fucked up. I mean, there’s a bunch of really great artists, but the art world – the market – seems lost. As soon as possible, I would like to get off Instagram and Facebook, live on a beach somewhere and be disconnected. I want to paint and I want to sell paintings, but I really don’t need to know who’s buying what and why. This might change though. I will learn more about the art world and understand it and my position in it better. I’m really tired of social media and fame and everyone being beautiful and perfect. It’s not real. I’m looking for real. I’m looking for explanations. I’m traveling deeper inside myself to try to connect with the Universe. And even if social media might be connecting people, it’s definitely disconnecting us from the bigger picture. The world is lost and it makes me feel lost. Hopefully I’ll be less lost soon and able to understand everything (life) a little better. So, to answer the question – no, there’s no responsibility involved in art, except that the artist should follow his/her heart and create whatever he/she was given life to create. No matter if that happens to be something that has to do with the culture the artist is living in or not.
What can folks expect from you in the future? What cool projects are you working on that you can speak on?
I don’t know what to expect from myself, except that I will paint. I will paint, snap pictures, make movies, travel and let the Universe decide where I’m going. And, I will exhibit at my first solo show at a real gallery in Sweden.
Badir McCleary Editor in Chief
Badir McCleary is an independent consultant. He holds a M.A. in Arts Business from Sotheby’s Institute of Art (Los Angeles/London) where he focused on creating art markets and with an undergraduate degree in Internet Computing from Cabrini University focusing on e-commerce and digital trends. Badir enjoys working with artists and consider them crucial to informing his practice.
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