murals made of fire and soot

Self-proclaimed “suburbanist” Olivier Kosta did not learn to spray-paint on walls as a misdirected urban youth – quite the opposite, he grew up outside the city and was fascinated from afar by urban centers from his suburban home. He’s developed a highly unusual artistic style and medium to create wall and ceiling murals: using fire and soot instead of paint.

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His take, as a partial outsider, is both reverent and critical. On the one hand, the work he does is clearly influenced by street culture and urban art. On the other hand, he criticizes some graffiti and street artists for being more obsessed with a look or style than a concept.

murals made of fire and soot Olivier Kosta Thefaine

These strange ceiling and wall murals range greatly in subject matter, style and approach. Some are highly-organized patterns with near-classical symmetry and floral motifs. Others look like a collection of individual scrawls from underside of a dirty and misused student desk.

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If one thing binds the work together it is his obvious repeated use of a single major tool: the unlikely cigarette lighter. In a way, it seems a fitting choice for someone who is not fully ‘urban’ but perhaps a bit more reserved (or even refined?) from a slightly removed suburban lifestyle, education and consequently different perspective.

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His works have likewise spanned the gap, decorating the ceilings of dirty urban abandonments but also hanging from the white-washed walls of many art galleries. See more of them at Underdogs or on his website.

About the artist

Olivier Kosta-Théfaine (b. 1972) is a prolific French artist with a background in graffiti, whose work explores and plays with concepts and referents present in the neglected visual and material culture of the urban and suburban environments that are home to contemporary societies around the world. In order to highlight the brutality of the elements, Kosta-Théfaine resorts to a multiplicity of media, including painting, reliefs, sculpture and installations, interacting and playing with the codes of urban popular culture, manipulating the structure and syntax of its language and offering us, in the end, a new poetic reinterpretation. He has been exhibiting with galleries and institutions in countless countries since 1996, and his work is represented in several prestigious public and private collections.”