South London born Remi Rough is not only a renowned graffiti writer but also director, designer, curator and musician. His creative diversity is evidenced internationally, in gallery spaces and in all over the urban environment. Cass Art had a glimpse of his valuable time, to catch up on the essentials, and how we can adopt Remi's working attitude.
Where did you grow up and what did you study?
I grew up in South London… Streatham and Clapham. Pretty rough end of town in those days, I loved it though.
I did one year at Croydon College of Art doing a foundation but never made it into any universities so that was the end of that.
Everything I know I've taught myself and to be honest I feel pretty proud of that fact.
Was there a defining moment when you decided you wanted to make art?
My grandfather was extremely arty… He wasn't an actual artist but he always used to make things… From printed circuits to crazy pottery moulds. He had a big kiln in his house and used to have I guess the equivalent of an artist's studio upstairs. He was pretty key in making me follow an artistic path… Also my great Uncle; Antonio Pacitti was a pretty well-known South London artist and used to spend a lot of time around his studio when I was young. He taught me how to stretch canvas which is a bloody useful thing to know.
Do the materials you use inform the work or vice versa?
It all depends on what I'm doing… if I'm painting small… Canvas or paper then I will use materials that I know I can bend to work on a small scale, tape, spray paint, ink and graphite… If I'm on a mural, whatever is to hand usually works, emulsions, rollers, brushes, spray… I've even been known to use a plank of wood as a ruler.
What mediums are you desperate to try next?
I dabbled in some sculptural works last year to what I thought were some interesting results. I'd like to revisit that but on a much larger scale than I initially did.
3D is a whole new world though…
I would also like to do some painting in oil. The colour is so vibrant and solid. I just need to get over my initial fear and do it.
What's your studio like?
Busy… It's just four walls and a ceiling. It works fine for me… The space is not as important as what goes on inside it. I'd really like to move soon I think. I'd ideally like somewhere within walking distance from home so I can navigate school runs for my daughter and not be stressed about getting back for her.
Tell us about a day in the studio…
When I'm actually painting, I am 100 percent on that, I have music playing and just totally immerse myself in the painting. It's really important for me to understand what’s going on within a painting. If I'm not completely involved or my mind is elsewhere I just lose track. I need to know where a painting is going and when I feel I've done enough… A painting is never truly finished but if I can get it to a stage where it works for me and I can then let go of it, then I'm happy.
I also spend a lot of time reading in the studio, I like to take in visual information before I let loose on a painting.
Where do you look for inspiration?
Colours, shapes, forms, architecture and sound all inform my artwork. Sometimes I'll see a graphic image and see something I need within that image or sometimes I'll see 2 colours working against each other to create a beautiful composition. It all depends on where my eyes are at any given time.
Do you have any tips for the techniques you use?
Look at colours; see how they work together… or not!? Sometimes colour clash can create some truly amazing effects. Also look at the forms around you. Make notes, sketch, study and read.
What are some of your favourite products?
I'm obsessed with finishes… The Michael Harding varnishes are one of my favourite art materials by a long shot… You can completely change the resonance of a painting by the way you finish it...