If you’re knocking around Brighton on Friday 13th August, swing by Enter Gallery from 6-8pm to catch the exciting new show from Brighton graffiti artist, AROE.
Sign up at eventbrite to secure your place.
AROE popped into the gallery to tell us a little more about the thinking behind the series, and here’s what we learned…
Introducing Build and Destroy
The Build and Destroy series is inspired by the impermanent nature of graffiti, and the never-ending dance between artist and the authorities. AROE explains:
‘Everything that you would do in graffiti to destroy the wall, and everything that’s done to clean it off again, is present in each piece in the series. It’s all about the endless romantic battle between the person doing the graffiti and the person cleaning it off.’
The series comprises five original abstract pieces created using spray paint and ultra-black paint. Also included are five prints and five 3D-printed sculptures of Uzi machine guns – a recurring motif from AROE’s work.
Each 18cm tall sculpture is playfully emblazoned with the words ‘Crime Pays.’ AROE explains:
‘Because of the era I got into graffiti, it was really popular to take a character and give them a fat gold chain and shoes with big laces. I hate guns, they’re disgusting, but they’ve always been a joke in my work – I paint a portrait of something and then I give it an Uzi, so that everyone knows I’ve done it. We’ve created these Uzi’s to look like kids bath toys as a joke.’
Celebrating the graft in graffiti
In creating the series, AROE brings graffiti techniques, honed on the streets over decades spent mastering his craft, inside the art gallery. ‘There’s a discipline within graffiti that we’ve all mastered to become respected practitioners– I’m not going to learn an entire art form and then not utilise it when I do art. It’s like speaking perfect English and then deciding to speak French. It doesn’t make sense.’
AROE divulged that one of the main aims of Build and Destroy is to highlight the hard-graft and skill that underpins every committed graffiti artist’s career…
‘When you first start out in graffiti, it’s shit, people will try and steal your paint, people will cross out everything you do, people will destroy your work. It’s a miserable thing. And you have to do your time, put in the leg work, earn your position. It’s not for the faint-hearted. And the fact it gets overlooked, when people have put in the hard work – it’s time for the art form to get that recognition.’
‘There’s so many things that have been invented in oil painting, watercolour, collage and so on that people respect because the techniques are things taught at art school. The graffiti world has developed hundreds of techniques that no one really cares about. I want people to recognise the talent and ability involved in graffiti. I think those techniques need to be given a platform – rather than being dismissed as ‘just graffiti’. Graffiti artists produce incredible work, and they’re doing it all with a spray can. I don’t care what anyone says, that involves a lot of skill.’
The evolution of graffiti
By applying advanced graffiti techniques to canvas, AROE has taken everything he knows about graffiti and adapted it for the art world. In doing so, he is pushing the art form in a new direction…
‘Whether it’s oil painting or graffiti, the rules of each discipline are legitimate. This means, anyone learning an art form has to operate within the rules. The whole art form is developed within parameters, and those parameters can only be expanded by masters of graffiti. Just as in the same way the parameters of oil painting can only be expanded by masters of oil painting. You have to have done it all before you can take the art form in a new direction.’
Speaking of his process and of the more abstract elements in his original pieces, AROE reveals:
‘What I try to do with all my paintings is find an aspect of graffiti that I can fuck around with. At the moment I’m really obsessed with the fact that you’ll do a painting in the street and someone will say, ‘I really like that, but I can’t read it.’ And I think – does it matter? Do you like it, or do you not like it? How does it make you feel? That should be it. When I look at art, there’s plenty that I don’t understand – I can only understand how it makes me feel, and I’m satisfied with that being enough.’
Back to Black
One key graffiti technique AROE has transferred to the Build and Destroy series involves his use of black. In graffiti, thick black borders are used around painted letters to make the characters appear 3D, and in the process the black ends up becoming an integral part of the letter. AROE has used this method in each of the five original pieces in the series, using different-shaped black elements to frame and accentuate the piece.
True to pioneering form, the paint AROE has selected for these elements is no normal black paint. It’s a paint known as ultra-black – a shade so dark it absorbs 99% of the light that hits it, making any surface it’s painted with look totally flat. ‘It can’t throw a shadow – it has nothing to bounce off because when light hits it, it just gets sucked in.’
Perhaps it’s not the first time you’ve heard of this paint? It’s existence caused quite the ripple in the art world back in 2017 when a feud broke out between British Indian sculptor, Anish Kapoor and Southampton-based artist, Stuart Semple. Ultra-black paint was originally created for military use, before Kapoor acquired the exclusive rights to the colour, ensuring no one else could use it. Artists across the world were in uproar, and Semple was so incensed that he decided to take action, creating a version of his own that everyone is welcome to use…apart from Kapoor.
AROE explains what drew him to this ultra-black paint: ‘With graffiti you’re always trying to find the newest tool – so when you find out that there’s a certain new paint, tool, or technique you jump on it. Graffiti writers are always trying to find new ways of marking and messing things up.’
Build and Destroy is launching at Enter Gallery on Friday 13th of August from 6-8pm. Come experience the collection over a drink, with tunes supplied by live DJs. Sign up at eventbrite