Earlier this month we had a chance to speak with Remi Rough.
Remi is a South London born and bred artist that has been breaking boundaries with the aid of a spray can and a paintbrush for over 27 years. Remi started as a teenager in South London painting graffiti and studying graphic design and art at school.
“At school they asked what I wanted to do and I wanted to be a painter but I was interested in graphic design which was probably really detrimental to me at the time as I wanted to throw paint around. Now I use it for my own means. I do my own flyers and books”
“It is easier to get into graffiti now, the internet has made it easier. When I started there was nothing to look at, no internet no books. You would occasionally see a video, or a television program, or you would get a book someone had bought in Amsterdam.
“It was so few and far in between. You had no resource to kind of base what you do. All you had was experimentation. Now you can pick and choose what sort of style you want to do, ‘I think I’ll do stencil art or I’ll do paste stuff.’ You’ve got everything at the touch of a button. From that perspective it’s very very easy. Even the paint technology has changed so much; You can get 15 shades of yellow, 24 shades of pink. When I was 15/16 doing graffiti all you had was car paint. If you wanted pinks or purples, you had to mix it”
Remi’s latest mural, a collaboration by Agents of Change at the Megaro Hotel has caused a stir The Mergaro’s central location guarantees high visibility from those passing by; generating a lot of attention comments.
“They approached us. I’d done a really large mural – about 5 stories with one of the Agents of Change artists, Augustine Kofie, a guy from Portland and another guy from Vancouver at the beginning of last year and it went viral. I think it’s one of the biggest abstract murals in North America. The Megaro Hotel in Kings Cross had seen it and basically wanted a very similar thing done on their hotel. We worked really closely with an agency called The Narrative who kind of managed the job. It was a really huge job to do. We made an agreement that we wouldn’t put logos on it. They let us get on with it. They let us do exactly what we wanted to do it was really cool”
“It’s been quite mad because its the biggest one in London and its right in front of St Pancreas and Kings Cross. It was a bit controversial to some people but 85% of the feedback has been absolutely amazing, “The mural is so lovely,” and ” Thank you so much for brightening up London”.
Agents of Change didn’t start out as an artist collective.
“Agents of Change was originally a club night that myself and Timid used to do in a public toilet that had been turned into a venue in Spitalfields. We did it around the mid 2000′s and it ran its course and stopped.”
The collective was about to go into a new and creatively exciting phase.
“We got invited to do an art fair in Berlin and we chose a team of artists to go with us. That really was the birth of Agents of Change artists. From doing the art fair in Berlin we got signed to a gallery in Santander in Spain and then another gallery in Berlin. We did a big project called Five Days of Doom and then it just escalated from there. We very carefully chose new members and added to our numbers very, very progressive artists from different mediums. They are not all graffiti artists. We’ve got Ben Westaway, an amazing film maker. We’ve got LX One who’s a designer turned painter. Just a really interesting sub set of people”
“We choose the right people for the right project, like the Kings Cross one. We knew the four people who did that were the four people who could really make it work. It had to be quite abstract and ambiguous. We don’t really do any commercial work. We did the Megaro hotel in Kings Cross because of the location and Agents of Change is all about space and location. We’ll paint the building but we’re kind of going to do it on our own terms and they were really cool about that, which was great. We’ve been approached by brands to do adverts but we have to turn it down as it’s not what Agents of Change is about.”
The four artists who worked on the Kings Cross mural are from different countries or cities, but the distance didn’t cause a problem in the design process.
“The internet it makes it easier. I’m in London, Steve More’s in Edinburgh, LX One is in Paris and Augustine Kofie is in LA. We basically just bounced the design backwards and forwards for a couple of weeks until we had what we showed the client – about 70% of the design. The other 30% was done as we painted it, so there was a lot of free form movement in it. When you’re painting you realise that certain places need certain things. We’re quite adept at dealing with it on the spot. We do it all the time.”
Another notable example of Agents of Change’s work was the project, “Ghost Village”. Remi saw a story on the BBC web site about a village built in 1973 for oil workers. The village was never used and was too costly to demolish, so it stood abandoned.
“We went and checked it out and I thought I wonder if we can do this.”
To Remi’s relief the owner of the land was happy for them to paint.
“We managed to scrabble a couple of grand together and we went and did it off our own backs; 6 artists, 2 filmmakers and a photographer. A musician did the soundtrack. That was it. We went and did it, we put it out on the line and it went mad. Its been to something like 20 film festivals around the world and we’ve never even written a press release for it.
“The ghost village is kind of to-date, the Agents of Change’s Magnum Opus. We’re trying to find something even better to do than that.“
“It’s as ephemeral as the place itself which might be demolished at any time… It’s served its purpose it became an art gallery for the people that live there. They hated it (the village) it was an eyesore for almost 40 years. For the locals we changed its usage and they loved that.”
It hasn’t always been easy for Remi to get recognition for his work on his home turf.
“London is a hub of graffiti and street art but its never been that kind to me. Probably 80% of my work is abroad.”
Graffiti and Street art has become more global and this has opened up new opportunities for Remi especially through the Art Basel Miami Beach.
“I think what happened in Miami in the past three or four years has been quite a big point of change. It’s such a melting pot, everybody’s there so there are opportunities.“
Remi was invited a few years ago to the Art Basel Miami and it opened doors for him in America.
As the Agents of Change is a global collective this has led to more opportunities in different countries.
Not one to rest on his laurels, Remi’s in productive mode this year, with his work for Agents of Change as well as preparations for solo shows. But Remi does not sit back and wait for opportunities.
“I make my own things happen I don’t sit and wait for people to call me I try to pull opportunities together or I try and make my own opportunities if there aren’t any”
“I never get the time to do things for me. Finishing the project in Kings Cross was nice as it opened up some avenues for me do some stuff for myself which is a bit of a change.” His show – How to Use Color & Manipulate People starts in June in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne.
“I think it is important in art to use color as a means of getting people’s attention and getting their visual sphere around what you do. I like art that has a little bit of humor in it.”
“It’s quite a lot of work to produce so I better get busy. I love doing it.”
For more information on Remi Roughs work and upcoming projects you can visit his site.
Published: May 25, 2012 at 7:10 am
Post By: Indie
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