WORLDWIDE EXPRESS

I met J.Rose, artist and fellow Limited Press member in Bristol, back in 2005; a strangely unlikely beginning looking back on it. Myself and some of the usual suspects (Longjohn, Obese, Fors etc..) were doing a cultural Exchange project in Poland later that month, and for some reason needed an extra man. We’d only met JOsh a few times, but through an array of circumstances and co-incidences he ended up onboard the Poland trip. It was a Glavanzing experience for everyone, and Limited Press collective was pretty much born on that trip.

Travel has been one of the driving forces in both of our practices ever since. A mish-mash of foreign influence, from Afrikan textile patterns to Russian Folk-Art has characterised our collaborative paintings, as well as our solo work. In recent years, we’ve both meandered in different directions, I ended up in Latin America, and Josh in India, and then somehow we found ourselves back in the studio making work about similar things once again. So this time, travel is not just the inspiration but the subject matter for the exhibition.

It also seems fitting that Worldwide Express is also the first show in J.Roses new shop/gallery space in Oxford- LYPShop.

Here’s a sneak preview just for now, but I’ll put up more images of the whole show when it comes down. (I’m hoping some of you might go and visit it you see!).

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_DSC1257 medina framed 1412323_295766387241204_331976698_o WWExpress poster 2014
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Graff Tings

Strangely enough I’ve found myself painting letters again. I’ve had a couple of years off painting graffiti. I guess I’ve dropped the odd piece here and there, but havent been doing it in that obsessive way which I used to…so its been odd finding that bug coming back. I’ve even had a few mid-night epiphanies and woken up to draw a janky new letter or something. Anyhow, not sure what will come of it- I’m just trying not to edit myself too much and see what comes.

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Bucharest/ Portraits part 2

I just got back from the second part of the EU portrait trip, this time from Bucharest, Romania. Given the usual Tory immigration bollocks and xenophobic hysteria about Romanian immigrants that’s been pouring out of the media, I thought it’d be an interesting time to visit.

Sitting in Luton airport (which incidentally is not submerged in Eastern Europeans) I was thinking about everything I know about Romanians, and bar the fact that our newspapers seem to think they are peasants, and want-in on our welfare-state bitty, I decided that I didn’t know very much at all.

So I wasn’t so much  surprised as pleased to find the people I met there to be nice, welcoming, contemporary, interesting, hard working and creative people. Most of the young people I met were freelancers like me (working in the arts, film and design) and had little interest in moving to the UK, least of all to “live it up” on £56.80 pw.

Bucharest, like most big cities is a world of contrast. It’s got a picturesque old town, a modern center, and it sprawls out with wide avenues lined with trees and communist-era architecture. Thanks to my  hosts (writers from Bucharest’s best graffiti crew-) I got a chauffeur driven tour , starting with the more upmarket landmarks like the People’s Palace ( a monstrously big civic center built by the communists), and ending with  an abandoned chemical plant to do some painting.

The large communist blocks can look kind of imposing at the best of times, but pushed out to the edge of the city and left to crumble they take on a special kind of creepy that is spectacularly
photogenic and makes for a great spot to paint. On the walls there I saw some of the most interesting graffiti I’ve seen in a while, much of it by friends from SDC.

Amongst the ruins we bumped into some guys rocking army fatigues and wielding submachine guns. I was half way into the nearest bush before my guides explained they were not paramilitarys, but enthusiasts, who get dressed up and shoot ball bearings at each-other. Oh well, in that case…! Turns out they were a cheery bunch and seemed harmless enough, although they warned us to give them a wide birth next time lest we get a  BB to the eyeball.

My subject for Romania was an old man, so I set to finding a candidate in-between my various excursions. I quickly discovered that most people over the age of 30 didn’t speak much (if any ) English. After completely baffling half the population of the outdoor chess club, I moved on and confused old people outside the People’s Palace. It became clear that I’d have to change tack before I got arrested for being a public nuisance! Once again my hosts came to the rescue and Andrei took me to meet his Grandfather, an 88 year old man about town with such a nice manor he instantly made you smile. He’d lived on his street for 60 years, and with his help the residents there were some of the first people in the area to get electricity and running water into their homes. Andrie’s car wouldn’t start on the way back, and my jaw nearly fell off when I saw this 88year old man shuffle over and push the car down the road. Hero!

My hosts were in the middle of setting up a new graff shop, so they spent most of their spare evenings after work fitting it out and preparing to open. It was a nice atmosphere with their whole group coming by to help out and show support, it reminded me of setting up the Limited Press shop with the gang some years ago. They had a bit of a balls-up during the fit out, and got the slots for the new paint rack lazer-cut about 2mm too narrow, so the things wouldn’t slot together. We spent the best part of the night jigsawing the 1000 odd cuts wider and then banging it all together with considerable effort and frustration. I’ve found that being good at carpentry rarely fails to come in handy, and this time round it gave me a good opportunity to pay my hosts back a bit for all their kindness.

And that was Bucharest, somehow all of that fitted into two and a half days ( with little room for sleeping!). Thanks again to my new Romanian friends, Florin, Andrei ,Daniel and the rest of the gang.

And when it comes to Romania; in the words of Public Enemy- don’t believe the hype!

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2013/2014 (London)

A belated Happy New year to you all.

I’ve been about as lackadaisical on the blog front as ever, but I’ve had some pretty good excuses- its been HECTIC moving to London and I get even less pare time than usual. After the intial period of  daily battles with estate agents (A London estate agent is at least 50% more c*nty than a Bristol one) and moving boxes between my old studio, new studio, old house, new house and various attics and basements across the Uk- I have finally found some time to settle in.

Its been great fun so far, been to some amazing pubs and saw probably the best painting show ever recently (jules de balincourte at Victoria Miro). Have also been surprised how many little Oasis’ you can find in the city, like Hackney marsh which is probably my favourite spot at the moment. Alot to like and and a lot to get used to. There’s a funny energy to London, buzzy and productive but sometimes weird. A friend told me that weird stuff just happens  here, and you  get normalized to it- and then the next day we saw a hit and run. We were on our way home from a night out, and all turned round when we heard it-  a sound that almost made me puke- super disturbing but luckily the guy was ok (ish). I’m getting more used to the place now, and with improving geography I can occasionally arrive somewhere inside of an hour late or early which is a nice change!

So moving, acclimatizing and working ( and maybe a little bit of going out) has been me for the last three months. I’ve been working on my portrait project, and have a few commissions to keep me
finances ticking over. I released two new prints, painted some sets with my good friends at Charcoal Scenic- and in an unsusal new development I started painting a bit of graffiti again, which is weird because I haven’t really painted letters for almost 2 years.

So that was the end of 2013 in a nutshell. 2014 is already proven to be pretty crazy. I just got back from painting in Romania, and have now got shows in London, Oxford and Southampton lined up
before the end of spring. Stay tuned for more info- I’ll also be posting it on my Facebook page.(you can come and like me if you like).

Thanks to everyone who made 2013 a blinder, especially appreciate all the people that bought paintings and prints – don’t think I’ve ever had a better year for that!

Nice one-

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Lisbon/portrait project

I’ve been lucky enough to be included in a European portrait project, which will culminate in a touring exhibtion of the EU.
I’m one of a group of British artists that have been sent across the Eu to paint people’s portraits, with an eye to have artists from all the other EU countries do the same thing later on down the line if more funding can be secured. The result will be a library of portraits of people of different nationalities seen through the eyes of foreigners.

Its an amazing opportunity to combine two of my favorite things (travel and art), so I feel particularly chuffed to be involved with this project.
Early in October I went to Lisbon, Portugal to find my first subject. On paper, I can understand a fair bit of Portuguese because of its similarity to Spanish- so I was feeling pretty confident about finding someone who’d be happy to have me paint their portrait… but turns out it sounds nothing like it should and after a whole day of walking around in the Autumn rain leaving a trail of confused people in my wake, I decided that this was going to be harder than I thought! At about the point when things were looking their worst, I got a phone-call telling me that despite getting through to the shortlist, I hadn’t got the residency in Brazil I had just applied for. (I spent over a week on the proposal and application, and had been so exited about the prospect of being paid to go to paint in Brazil I’d barely slept the previous few nights!)

Well, this bad news nearly pushed me over the edge and I decided to cut my losses and head for a bar. I sat at the bar, next to a guy who after 2 months of not getting paid, had decided to walk out on his job (if you could call it that), with no other work prospects on the horizon. We compared our tales of woe in a funny mix of english/spanish/portuguese and hand gestures, I decided that his bad news was worse than mine so bought him another beer…and that was how I met my first subject!

The rest of the trip improved from this point and I met a steady stream of funny and interesting characters over the following two days. I also met up with Cleide, a lovely Portuguese girl who showed me around Lisbon and took me painting. I’d nearly run out of time by this point so it was a case of painting as quickly as possible, running back to the hostel to pick up my bag and then straight on to the airport with barley enough time to make the gate before boarding.

Lisbon is a great place, a beautiful, ramshackle mix of old and new with lots of great bars and street art. I might have arranged free accommodation for next year in exchange for a mural- so hopefully I’ll be seeing more of it.

Next step is to get the Lisbon portrait finished and then on to Romania for the next one!

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all things great and small.

I was away from the studio for nearly a year and a half, when you count the time before and after I got back; Consequently I’ve clocked up much more studio hours this year than most, even sweating it out in there on hot summer days , days when usually I’d be out painting. It’s interesting how circumstances can shape your practice.

My work often takes on the form of moquettes, or models. Initially this was a way of exploring large ideas in a small space (and with a small budget), but since then, I have discovered that miniature worlds have a lot going for them. Scale has a strange affect on us, and being somewhat self-centered creatures, we tend to imagine ourselves in relation to objects, so a miniature truck invites us to shrink down into the driving seat and view the world through its tiny windscreen. I discovered that I like this, and better than that, I discovered that other people like it too.

Now that I know this, I’ve revisited other ideas and themes and have started exploring some of the BIG landscapes from my travels through this miniature lens. People never quite stop being children, and its good to be reminded of this sometimes, and also- its nice to be King of a tiny Kingdom.

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Spaceships and Elephants.

I spent a perfect couple of sunny summer weeks this year, camped out in a deserted playground amongst the spaceships and giant pencils, painting a giant mural.
Its not often you get a brief where you can really let your imagination run away with you, but I guess when ‘the client’ is a group of 5-7 year olds , that kind of brief is almost inevitable.

We started with an amazing little focus group which was packed with energy and enthusiasm, (and a distinct taste for the surreal). It led to a design full of unexpected material- flying fish, princesses riding elephants and Chinese dragons. One or two ideas where so off key we weren’t even sure how to illustrate them- a fan fighting a door?, a toothbrush shopping for cheese?!, but on the whole, all the ideas made the grade and got included somewhere.

So, a great client, a great brief and I even managed to muster up some great help. What a win.
Big thanks to Emily, Lea and Dunc for the mad skills, music and conversation.

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The Golden touch: 100% feedback based design.

One of the problems of being an artist is never quite knowing how your work has been received by the outside world. This is partly why I Love painting on the street, you have an interaction with passers by and the gap between artist and audience is lessened, but you can’t stand in front of your piece forever… and for that matter, I suspect that people are more likely and come and talk to you if they like the work than if they don’t (not to say I haven’t had a few disgruntled grumpers over the years…)

Another major art problem is getting funding to make work, be it from private sales or arts council or whatever…but maybe I’ve just worked out how to get two birds with one stone….

In recent years I’ve noticed the trend for the most appealing or tactile parts of bronze sculptures to get gently polished by the passing traffic of people. In Mendoza I visited a monument which had a large series of portrait reliefs of the usual suspects (famous liberators, generals etc..) going up the stairs. On every relief, the bronze nose had been polished , working up to a brilliant gold sheen on the noblest, most pronounced Spanish noses. In Cartegena, a famous Botero sculpture proudly sports a sparkling gold breast, and gently polished buttocks. Around the globe , nipples, tips of fingers and tails, muzzles and elbows all get a similar treatment.

Maybe we could use this as a way of measuring how successful a piece is, and also as a way of securing later funding. i.e. make a sculpture based on “shiny” feedback. You then put it in a museum with other bronze sculptures, and at the end of 6 months review its progress. “I want more cash because my one was 63% more shiny than everything else in the museum”.

I’ve attached 2 proposals just to get the ball rolling.

What do we think – genius idea, or conclusive proof that if you give the people (or art funders) what they want you’re guaranteed a giant pile of tits and ass?

(Role on Game of Thrones.)

R.
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Open Studios

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Last weekend we  cleared away all the botulism riddled cups, whitewashed the walls, swept up the piles of sawdust and opened up the unit 11 studios to the public. It was a fantastic weekend, and even though it pissed it down most the time we still got twice as many people as last year, including a band of ukuleleists (Southampton ukele jam) who had a little impromptu jam in the studios.  Not quite sure the studio was cut out as a concert hall; there was enough players to take up almost the entirety of the largest room, leaving just about space for 2 audience members in the doorway, which would then rotate with the people peering over their shoulders…good fun though.

Anyway, It was an interesting weekend and good to get an outside perspective on the little world which is my studio. I’ve got a load of new works on the go at the moment, and feel a little precious about them still as I’m not quite sure what’s going on with them yet,- so it was a little odd having to show them to people, but despite being a little uncomfortable it was surprisingly enlightening.

For some reason I’ve been holding off showing the new material to anyone, but perhaps I’m over that now. Photos of new works to follow, soon…maybe…

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LOVE SYRIA

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I was recently asked to do a painting for Oxfam to promote their Syria Crisis Appeal, and as I’ve been following the Syrian situation with a growing sense of helplessness , I was pleased to be given an opportunity to get more involved , so I instantly agreed. As the project unfolded I found it opened up a surprising amount of challenges and angles to consider.

Oxfam are trying desperately to steer clear of that image of a starving child  that probably appears in most peoples mind when they think of Oxfam. As it turns out, negativity is a turn off , so we  also stayed clear of the figures . Statistics like; 93,000 dead or 1,846,486 refugees  make the situation seem so awful that for some reason that inspires less people to contribute . This fact surprised me, but any marketing strategist will confirm it.  It took me a while to get my head round the idea that what I felt represented the situation well from an artist’s perspective wasn’t necessarily what was best from a fundraising perspective.

After a few attempts, we arrived on  a design which we felt was not overly negative and conveyed a message of collaboration between Syria and Oxfam without being patronising or undignified to the victims of the conflict. The Slogan “LOVE SYRIA” is one which has a definite pop-culture feel, and was the campaign Oxfam used at Glastonbury to gain awareness. The  popiness of the slogan made me feel a little uncomfortable, but at the same time – if anywhere needs love right now it would be Syria. I have a natural suspicion when it comes to all things marketing , so felt like I had stumbled into unknown territory with this one, but it opened up some interesting debates; largely to do with how to best communicate, or “sell” your idea and when, or how/when the end can justify the means.

In the film NO, set in Chile towards the end of Pinochet’s reign- marketing is used to sell democracy, a campaign to counter the dictatorship. Ultimately it wasn’t images of torture, police brutality and murder that  encouraged people to act, but a Cocacola style image of happiness which sold the idea of democracy. As an artist I feel my role is to do with conveying a kind of  truth, so I have a dislike for the fake and bullshitty world of  Marketing. Having  said this, art is also about communicating a message, so why not take a few leaves from the marketing book if it gets the point across, or even more importantly if it helps you affect change? For me the problem arises when the message and the method are contradictory, ie; criticizing consumer culture while being an active ingredient of it. I guess this is the ultimate  paradox/can of worms for street artists. Obviously much of this debate has nothing to do with this Syria project, but there’s some interesting food for thought here.

Anyway-back to the programme… The finished LOVE SYRIA painting came out really well and generated a lot of attention due to its prominent location and the addition of  some 4ft foam letters spelling out LOVE SYRIA (which quite often went drifting down the street on the shoulders of passing  drunks) . So all good for the cause. For some reason we didn’t get  into local press the same day as ‘something else’ was going on. I read the local papers that evening and for the life of me couldn’t identify the ground breaking scoop that pushed us off the spot, (was hard to split it between  “heat wave transport delays” and  “cat stuck in a fucking tree”).  Anyway that’s the fickle world of the media for you. Cynicism aside, I was pleased to be part of something useful, something that may help, even if its in a small way. Street art can provide a brilliant platform for ideas, but is often frittered away on the banal. More and more I am trying to make my input an exception to that trend.

If you read this and feel inspired to donate some money to the Syria Crisis that would be cool and you can do that here. or if you prefer not to do so via Oxfam there’s plenty of other organisations such as UNICEF , Human appeal and save the children that also have campaigns.

 

Thanks for reading,

Big Love!

R

x

 

p.s.  24/7 article about the piece here http://www.bristol247.com/2013/07/31/street-artist-unveils-mural-to-aid-syria-charity-appeal-39061/