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Artist Okuda San Miguel Sets an 82-Foot Sculpture Aflame for the Falles Festival in Valencia

Photo by the author for Colossal

Earlier this month in the city of Valencia, Spain, the annual five-day Falles Festival hosted the construction and burning of some 400 sculptures in neighborhoods across the city amidst fireworks, parades, and enormous bubbling skillets of paella. The festival is so large it requires year-round preparation. Neighborhoods raise money to hire artisans to build each falla, and plans are made for eardrum shattering pyrotechnic displays called Mascletà that occur daily at 2pm.

For 2018, the Falles Festival invited Spanish artist Okuda San Miguel (previously) to build the Falla Mayor, the largest and last falla to be burnt during the celebration. With the help of renowned falla designers Pepe Latorre and Gabriel Sanz, as well as a monumental effort from his team at Ink and Movement, the team submitted a winning design that incorporates the artist’s trademark colorful geometric style. Okuda says the 25 meter (82 foot) piece loosely addresses the relationship between people and animals, while incorporating various symbols the local community might find familiar.

Photos by the author for Colossal

Photo by the author for Colossal

“I’m inspired most by surrealist Salvador Dali and by Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights,” Okuda shared with Colossal. “I mostly describe my work as surrealism.” In an interesting twist, Dali designed and built a falla during the festival in 1954. Instead of indulging in surrealism’s darker side, Okuda’s work seems to shine a bright, happy light on the creatures and figures who populate his multicolor murals and canvases.

The festival may date back to as far as the Middle Ages when carpenters and woodworkers burnt wood scraps at the end of winter to celebrate the spring equinox, though it is now generally known as a celebration of Saint Joseph. In its present day form, the trash heaps have morphed into elaborate artworks that feature celebrities, various current events, and even abstract conceptual sculptures. Caricatures of political figures like Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, and Kim Jong-un appeared frequently this year. Two years ago the event was designated as a world heritage site by UNESCO.

During the festival Okuda also opened a large retrospective of work titled “The Multicolored Equilibrium Between Humans and Animals” at the Centre de El Carme in Valencia. The expansive exhibition gathers paintings, sculptures, photos, and video works from the last 20 years. The show is free, open to the public, and runs through May 27, 2018. You can follow Okuda on Instagram, and pickup some of his original works in the Ink and Movement Shop. Video courtesy Chop Em Down Films.

Photo by the author for Colossal

Falles sculpture by Salvador Dali, 1954