T O P S A F E P R E S E N T S
audio : Krystal Klear
video : Kieran Gee-Finch
Following a decade-long campaign of graffiti that has beamed him from South London to worldwide renown, notorious boundary-pusher Roid is finally landing on the planet Fine Art. At 29, Roid has already cultivated a huge international reputation for innovation and technical skill. His constant evolution of the conventions of New York Subway graffiti has never stayed still and neither has he. He has also got up. Attracting the avid attention of graffiti heads, street art fans and transit police departments all over the globe, Roid graduated into the ranks of respected American crew MSK in 2008, the same year he graduated from Camberwell College of Art. Following his art world debut alongside Revok and Rime at the Known Gallery in 2011, he got a nod from Forbes magazine, in an article on ‘The 30 Most Important Artists and Designers under 30.’
For his debut solo show, Roid has retreated to the studio, working alone, obsessively and with painstaking precision, entirely by hand, in various media, on paper and wooden boards. The work that he’s arrived at is a kaleidoscopic clash of typographical study and primitive digital imagery. The paintings are rigorously composed, dream-vivid abstractions, in which flicker fragments of recognizable letters, computer graphics, shapes and objects; a detail of a bit of an old synthesizer here, there a plume of purple smoke. These are gleaming clean, energetic and fresh abstract paintings for our times, rendered in a coolly robotic style and with a mind-boggling attention to detail. Everything is in its right place, even the occasional rogue dribble of Roid’s beloved spraypaint. But graffiti these ain’t.
“To be honest, I don’t like most graffiti, really” says Roid. This is definitely not a graffiti show. “I think straight graffiti loses all its energy when it’s translated to a canvas; all that energy remains with the walls and the trains it’s painted on.” He’s forging new ground with this new work, and it’s ground that’s littered with the fractured imagery of the technology we’ve lived by all our lives.“I want the paintings to look like glitched-out videos screen memories, cutting into each other and layered-up like graphic components to a bigger plan” Roid explains; “They’re cut-and-pastes of all the stuff I’m interested in, like a collage, but created with inks and paint.”
Roid cites electronic music, technological nostalgia, airbrush art from the 70s and 80s and Japanese graphic design as the big influences over this new work. A huge fan of Japanese artist Tadanori Yokoo, he also claims Manga masterpiece Akira’s creator Katsuhiro Ohtomo as an inspiration.
“Computer love” is a phrase Roid uses in describing the themes of his new work. He talks about certain paintings being “inspired by the idea of love stories between robots and computers.” He also says “I don’t like working on computers, but I like the mathematics and precision you need to create that kind of aesthetic by hand.” These pieces are all Roid, no android. “Letter studies” is also a term that often comes up. Four of his largest works each take, break down, repeat and explode elements of the structures of the four letters R, O, I and D. They will hang together, in order, but don’t expect to be able to read them. “I want them to be open to interpretation,” says Roid; “I want there to be suggestions of letters, but I want people to have to work out how to read them, rather than it be instantly obvious. You have to look at them hard.”
Roid’s new art rewires, reinterprets and finally occludes the very letters that made him famous. But they’re still there; ghosts in the machine. “Obviously graffiti’s the reason that I’m doing what I’m doing now” says the artist. “This is a departure from graffiti, but it’s still informed by graffiti. I’ve been painting my name for ten years: it’s incredible how difficult it is to stray away from letters. The four letters are always present.” YOU ARE IN MY SYSTEM is the title of one of the new paintings. The show – cutting-edge, bright, abuzz, triumphant – is MORE THAN EVER.
MORE THAN EVER is on view to the public from June 1st to June 3rd, Shop 13 The Old Truman Brewery, Brick Lane.
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