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Transforming Urban Spaces into Living Galleries- An Interview with Ruinbow

Introducing an interview with a unique and socially conscious artist whose work transforms the streets into an open-air gallery. With a passion for street art and a mission to make original art accessible to all, this artist's approach is both innovative and inspiring.

2023-09-08

Joana Alarcão

Let's begin with an overview of your practice. Could you tell us about your main concepts, media of work, and background?

I am a fully qualified chef, I have more than 10 years in the catering industry and I studied hospitality and catering at college for 3 years. I hated the unsociable and long hours within the industry and I thought it was a bit of a joke. I was paid more for putting the food on the plate than the person who actually cooked it! I had to break away from this lifestyle.


Art didn't seem like an option for me at the time because I wasn't very arty growing up. At school, I hated art. I hated getting my hands messy and I thought most art was pretentious and shit! 


One day I was just really bored sitting in my room. I had completed all my PlayStation games, there wasn't anything good on TV, and my friends were too busy to go out. I picked up a pencil and decided to draw, what I actually created at the time was pretty shit! But at the time, I was proud of what I had done and I wanted to get better. I was going to art galleries, to the library getting books out on technique and learning about the history of art too. And of course using everybody's best friend, Google! 


I grew up fairly poor, I stood out from the rest of the crowd at school. I am autistic as well so I didn't actually understand that I was getting bullied by the other kids.


I have always used humour to get through life, and it is these experiences of being poor, getting bullied and having a learning disability which shape the concepts of my art. I would love it if everybody could afford an original piece of artwork.


Street art seems to have a significant influence on your work. Could you delve deeper into what drew you to street art and how it has shaped your artistic style?

Street art and graffiti are everywhere, people think these are the same thing. Street art is a piece of art in the street, whereas graffiti is mainly lettering.


The fact that you can walk down the street and not have to go to an art gallery makes it more accessible. I find things that are more accessible more attractive. I'm not into the artworks that are playing "hard to get" like the Mona Lisa with massive queues and putting it in a tight space

Put it somewhere that everyone can see it. This is what's attractive about street art, and if the art is shit or boring then another artist would paint over it! The streets are like a jungle and anything is fair game. 


There are many street artists out there who have managed to shape the art world today - Keith Haring, Blek le Rat, Jean-Michel Basquiat, some dude called Bankso (think that's how you spell his name) 


I would be a fool to suggest that I've not been influenced by them. These are all artists for the people rather than wanting to capitalise on their work, I'm not anti-capitalist as such, I just think capitalist scum are wankers. In an ideal world, all art would be free and not behind stupid glass like in some art galleries.




Your unique approach of distributing artwork for free to homeless individuals, effectively transforming the streets into an art gallery, is both intriguing and impactful. Can you share the inspiration behind this approach and how it has influenced your creative process?

 I noticed homeless people place themselves where there is a lot of footfall in city centres, and watching lots of people ignore them made me really sad. I used to sit down to eat my lunch and nobody stopped or even considered the homeless.

I wanted to draw attention to them and to give the homeless person a sense of purpose. They appreciated my support and some just liked someone to stop and have a conversation for a short time.

This was part of my mission of making art affordable and accessible.

I have also experienced homelessness myself so this is something that I am passionate about and want to help. Most people can sympathise with the homeless but I can empathise.


Can you elaborate on the intention behind this decision and how it adds an extra layer of depth to your art?

Displaying my art in the streets still makes it street art. But instead of art being scrawled on walls, the homeless become the frames for my work.

It is a living street art gallery.

There are many barriers to getting your art into an art gallery and the footfall isn't that great.

The homeless place themselves in busy areas so more people have seen my artwork through them than if I had it displayed in a gallery.


Handcrafted stencils and the creation of original artwork rather than prints are central to your artistic process. Could you take us through the journey of making these stencils and the meticulous approach you take when crafting each unique piece?

Stencils can be modified or used with different stencils to create new ideas or pieces of art.

Every piece of art is slightly different even if the same stencil is used because the spray paint won't leave the can in the exact same way.

I think this adds more value to my art rather than creating prints.

Every piece is sold as an original rather than a print or copy as they are all unique. I use stencils which take a long time to produce but make it easier to reproduce similar images quickly which in the long run can make the artwork more affordable.




You have had experiences showcasing your work in galleries, photography galleries, and various establishments; how have these exhibitions shaped your artistic career and provided opportunities to reach a wider audience?

Showcasing my artwork in person has provided me with some good relationships and good customers. The feedback from the galleries has always been positive. Although compliments feed the ego, they don't feed the belly.

There are certain stadiums where some sports stars dream of playing in their career. As an artist, there isn't any particular art gallery I would want to aspire to be in. I think this is a shame for the art world that there isn't any definitive art gallery.

 

When conducting workshops, how do you approach helping individuals gain the confidence to express themselves through art? Are there specific techniques or exercises that you find particularly effective?

I want them to loosen up and remember that as a child, they just drew. They didn't care what the picture looked like or what their ability was. As they grow older they develop an ego and their drawing doesn't look quite as they wished. So I try to get them in tune with their inner child that used to be carefree and just drew.


I encourage people to draw really quickly where the most talented artist would fail to create a masterpiece in the time I give them, this is to create a level playing field and to remove ability from the outcome. I want people to create and feel the pen, pencil, charcoal, whatever it is against the surface they are pressing against. 


The next stage is getting the participants to question their artwork and to find the flaws themselves, I think this is an important process. Correcting the mistakes we make in life. I encourage participants to compliment and criticise each other's work as well.

 

As an artist committed to accessibility and affordability, how do you navigate the challenge of maintaining your artistic vision while creating art that resonates with a diverse audience?

For art to be accessible it has to reach a diverse audience.

There isn't any other option but to tackle political and controversial pieces. I want to create pieces of art that resonate with my personal beliefs whilst reaching as many people as I can.

 



Are there any upcoming projects or initiatives that you are particularly excited about?

 I am currently working on quite a few pieces at the moment. I like comedy, puns and play on words. The UK media has labelled the economy at the moment as The Cost of Living Crisis. I am going to produce a piece of art of a prostitute injecting herself with drugs and I'm calling it The Cost of Loving Crisis. This is the sort of thing people will understand without having to guess what the message behind the piece is.


Lastly, are there any platforms, artists, or books that you would recommend to our readers?

It depends on what the artist's vision is.

As Platforms:

  • All street art, get your art seen! 

  • Apply to galleries

  • Use social media

  • Network with people

  • Get your own website


If you just want to view artwork: 

  • Go to art galleries

  • Visit art dealers

  • Go to the library

  • Go online and look up your favourite artists 


There are millions of books out there and I haven't quite found any that I would solely recommend, just go to the library and find what suits you

Whether that's history of art, art techniques or a particular artist then just go for it!


I would recommend the following artists to be looked up:

  • Blek le Rat

  • Andy Warhol

  • Jean Michel Basquiat 

  • Banksy 

  • David Shrigley


All Images courtesy of Ruinbow.

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I am influenced by street art and the way street art is put out there.
I have distributed my artwork for free to homeless people, turning the streets into a living art gallery.
The homeless people can choose to keep or sell the artwork for effectively being the "frames" for my work.
I spend a lot of time making stencils by hand and then creating original pieces of art rather than prints.
My mission is to make original art affordable and accessible for everyone.

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