Known for his abstract, geometric compositions of colour across different surfaces and in a multitude of locations, Remi Rough is the South London street artist whose work looks like it could be straight out of the mid 20th century Italian Futurism movement. It’s appropriate then that his next exhibition, Symphony of Systematic Minimalism, should be at Wunderkammern Gallery in Rome. Rough has always been fascinated by avant-garde movements, where viewers are led into another dimension of motion, energy, speed and sound.
Rough’s work caught the attention of people at the MB6 Marrakech Biennale in 2016 with his trompe l’oeil geometric stripe of bright blue, which blended seamlessly with the Moroccan sky. And his work has been displayed in galleries from Moscow to Strasbourg. “The artist combines the purism of avant-garde movements with a totally modern expressionistic energy to create powerful abstract compositions,” says curator Marta Silva.
Ahead of his show next week, we caught up with Rough to ask him about getting into graffiti art and how the art form has changed today.
What is art to you?
Mostly art is my job, my passion, my bane and my life. It’s also a cultural escape from all the crap we as humans have to deal with on a daily basis.
When did graffiti become more about producing art than tagging walls?
Pretty much from the beginning. It was always about making art. Graffiti is an art form first and foremost. It’s the only art form ever conceived and taken forward by children, so from that perspective alone, it’s pretty historic. I was into the style and letters from the start. I was never interested in tagging, as anyone could do that. What interested me was the art of spray paint – painting characters and scenes. Letters interlocking with 3D aspects and mad colours everywhere. It was always about creating something beautiful and long lasting for me. I wanted to become so good that people would notice it.
What is it about graffiti art that resonates with you?
Graffiti art nowadays doesn’t interest me that much. It’s far too conformist, which for a rebellious art form is a ridiculous state for it to be in. But I think when it was at its peak in the 90s and early 00s, the thing that resonated with me the most was the pioneering artists like Daim and Loomit from Germany who came up with 3D graffiti, void of outlines, just light and dark, clean edges and amazing techniques. Also character painters who mastered the art of photo-realism with spray paint. I dabbled in that for a while in the late 90s but it wasn’t my end destination by any means. Seeing the creativity that some artists conjure up was always what piqued my interest.
What’s the biggest challenge for you as a graffiti artist?
Being original and mastering technique are without doubt the biggest challenges facing any graffiti artist. It was harder to be a master in the early days, pre-internet. Artists now have everything laid out in a browser for them – even the paint is designed specifically for graffiti artists nowadays. We had crap car paint and we did the best we could with terrible materials because it was all we had. Now you have a range of 251 colours and various caps. It’s a bit too easy in my opinion. I think the learning curves have been lost along the way, which holds development back.
What shows have you seen recently?
Gordon Cheung at Edel Assanti, that’s a great show. I love his work. Also Barry Reigate at Castor Projects. He paints huge canvasses with airbrush – pretty cool stuff. I spend a lot of time in the new Tate Modern, which is utterly amazing and the abstract Expressionists show last year was one of the best things I have seen in a long time.
Symphony of Systematic Minimalism runs from 1 April to 20 May. wunderkammern.net