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Aloha: the secret life of a street artist

Aloha Oe was on his way to becoming a well-known artist, painting on canvas and appearing in art galleries, when he discovered the world of street art.

“I chose my street artist name when I was studying Gauguin at school in history of art. He used to say ‘aloha’, which is ‘hello’ in Hawaiian. I started to use it to greet nearly everyone. I liked the message of hello, welcome and love.

“My friends were all street artists, and I wanted to find my own niche. They each had their own theme.

“I began to ask myself what characteristics I had, and I thought, jokingly, I was the only gay person in the group so I said that I would do gay street art.

“I like to draw people who express themselves through their looks or how they act. I like to draw people the way they are, but exaggerating their individuality with wigs, symbols, outrageous dress.

“I’m interested in how men and women express their identity through their looks. These people are all extravagant, very provocative and often sexy.

“I have a lot of friends who dress outrageously and who inspire my drawings. At other times I find interesting people on social media.

“For example, I often find people on Instagram and ask if I can use their photograph as an inspiration to make street art.

“It’s like making a documentary. I then post a photograph of the street art on social media, sometimes tagging them. They love it and share it.

“I like to draw things that exist but which no-one sees or which they want to avoid. I think my street art is 10 years ahead of what is fashionable now.

“It’s a bit presumptuous, I know, but I’m documenting what is happening. I choose what to draw. I draw according to my background and my characteristics.

“I express myself. I draw society, but it’s the way I see society. I’m the same person when I’m doing street art and when I’m not. But on the other hand not showing my face – the secrecy that comes with being a street artist – is what develops the character of Aloha.

“I like the mystery. In the end, art is destined to go, to disappear. For me art is born, it lives and then dies. That’s beautiful.

“[On the other hand] my wish as a street artist is to appear in a museum, to be documented, to be remembered in history. That’s my dream. On a personal level, I want to be able to communicate through my art.”

Pictures were supplied by Aloha Oe. You can see more of his art on Instagram

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