Yesterday, Artist OKOK opened his first public art studio, ever, in the lobby of Nordic Light Hotel / The Crooked Leg in Stockholm, Sweden. Between September 8th and October 5th, for 28 days straight, he will create a body of work for an exhibition, ending with a showing and a party on October 10th.
During his time in the studio, OKOK will be keeping a blog diary at Radar Magazine. Be sure to check it out at http://radarcollective.com/artbyokok/. Now let us get to know our Radar newcomer!
What’s the origin of the name OKOK?
– I grew up a graffiti writer on the K-Line in Stockholm, so picking a name to use as my pseudonym instead of my real name was natural. I picked OKOK because it’s easy to repeat. I can paint OKOK over and over again to create a pattern. I also picked OKOK because it sends out a positive vibe. A huge part of my art and me as an artist is to spread good vibes.
In the beginning of the 21st century, OKOK started putting together concerts and clubs, focused on his career as a backpack rapper and worked at Recordnet – the number one Swedish record store for Hip Hop lovers. A few years later, the MP3-wave had the store shut down and OKOK went to India for the first time. When coming back from three months of adventures, he got head hunted by a gang of very talented rappers and producers going by the name of Respect My Hustle. Together with the go-getter of the gang he formed the management company RMH Management Group and started working 24/7 to get their music out. After some turbulent months OKOK and his partner decided to put all their energy into their artist Adam Tensta and about a year later Adam Tensta had a huge hit record on radio.
It took me way too long to realise that I needed to quit my job as a music manager to start working on my own career instead
A few years later, OKOK found himself feeling depressed without knowing why. With his career as a music manager going great, working around the clock, traveling the world – he felt like something was missing. When an old time friend gave him a camera and he started snapping pictures, he slowly felt like life was coming back to him. Born an artist, but not working as one – was slowly killing him. With this new understanding he realised that he had to follow his heart.
OKOK has now been focusing on his own career since November 2013, working as an artist and with TagsAndThrows, a project where he’s documenting graffiti bombing from all over the world. With 70.000 followers on Instagram and over a million views on YouTube, TagsAndThrows is now the leading source for the backbone of graffiti writing – tags and throw-ups.
What was the greatest challenge going from managing other talents to focus on your own?
– Letting go. It took me way too long to realise that I needed to quit my job as a music manager to start working on my own career instead. I should’ve done it 2-3 years earlier, but something made me not dare to do it. When I decided to fully focus on my art, it felt like I started living life again. So there was not really a huge challenge for me. The challenge now is making sure I paint everyday, all the time. And, like most other artists, I can go from loving myself and my art to hating myself and my art – in just a few seconds.
Your visuals contains a lot of repetitive patterns and symbols. How did you arrive at that particular visual language?
– That’s basically what I started drawing November 2013. It was my first deep dive into my own visual world. That has changed a lot though. I’m not as anal now as I was 10 months ago, mostly because I spent two months in India where it was impossible to keep things clean. When in Stockholm, I was sitting in a kitchen with running water – there I could wash my hands as soon as I had a sandwich. Painting in India was way different. I spent most of my time at different restaurants on a beach in Goa, where I was sketching from early morning till late night. I had a nan bread, said hello to a stray dog and used sun lotion. After sketching for 4-5 hours and then suddenly getting grease on the sketches made me angry – at least the first week of my stay. After that, I realised that I wont be able to keep my sketches clean while in India – so I went to the local stationary to buy brushes and start splashing paint instead.
Where do you find inspiration?
– I’m always full of inspiration. Sometimes it feels like I’ve got too much inspiration. Too many ideas. Exactly where this inspiration comes from, I don’t know. I can get inspired by a dried up splash of soda on a subway platform, and I can get inspired by going to a museum to look at other peoples art. Usually, I’m only able to handle about 30 minutes of looking at art though, before I want to leave to start working on my own stuff again.
What’s your main goal and focus in art during the month at the hotel?
– It’s my first ever chance to paint in a bigger format. That’s what I’m looking forward to the most. I’m also planning a few collaborations with people that are my friends. I’m very focused on October 10 – the opening of the exhibition and the after party. I’m a huge fan of having people around me that laugh and have a good time. October 10 will be my biggest chance so far of getting all my friends together for a night that they will remember forever.
What can we expect from your diary?
– I will both express myself in text, photography and film. My dear friend Manga Minja will make short movies with me from this stay and I will let people in behind the scenes at Nordic Light as much as possible. I’m seeing not only what I paint during these 28 days as my art, I’m seeing me as an artist here at the hotel as an equally as big part of the exhibition as the art. I treat it like a performance piece and I hope people will enjoy getting a look into what will be my life for a month. Check it out http://radarcollective.com/artbyokok/.