Beachroad Magazine head to DIFC to meet contemporary artist Robi Walters. Robi will showcase his mixed media work in Dubai for the very first time, at the DIFC Art Nights, followed by an exhibition at the Capital Club, DIFC until 30th June 2018. Presented by West Contemporary, the acclaimed British artist is renowned for his collaborations with celebrities such as Sir Paul McCartney, U2 and Mary J Blige, with the likes of Bryan Adams, Thandie Newton, Usain Bolt and Michael Bublé all collectors of his work.
YOUR FIRST JOB? // It was with Ian Swift (Swifty) - a graphic designer - who was a bit of a hero. I went to him pretty much straight out of college and he gave me a job. It was here I began working on amazing projects in the music industry and on a magazine called Straight No Chaser. There were other creatives working in the studio too who have gone on to do incredible things.
WHERE WERE YOU BORN? // London.
WHERE DO YOU LIVE? // Marylebone, London W1.
YOUR CURRENT OCCUPATION // Artist and entrepreneur.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO BECOME AN ARTIST? // I’ve enjoyed painting and drawing since I was a boy. When I was in secondary school, my art teacher took me aside, held my shoulders and literally shook me. She said “I can see it in you; I can see the colours of the Caribbean in your work. You have it in you to do this.” She saw something special inside me that I couldn’t see myself at the time. But I’ve never forgotten it and when I began making art full time, this memory gave me strength.
HOW DID YOUR STYLE OF ART DEVELOP? // I wanted to start creating collage but wasn’t quite sure what materials to use. I remember looking at my overflowing recycling box and thinking about consumerism and the current state of our planet. So that’s what I started with. I also love the idea of transforming something discarded or unwanted into something beautiful - everything has inherent value. As for the form of my work, I’ve always been interested in geometry. It provides my work with fundamental structure and building blocks from which I can be more creative and fluid. I’ve always been fascinated by patterns - how the repetition of shape and form can create a whole different structure. I also meditate daily and have referenced the thousand petalled lotus; which is a symbol of consciousness.
EXPLAIN THE WORK PROCESS IN CREATING AN ARTWORK? // I start with deciding on a colour palette. Most of my pieces are quite bold colours and I also incorporate fluorescents and metallics which really bring the work alive. Then the card is spray painted and each petal is cut by hand (both with scissors and with a hand-wound die cutting machine) - this process can take up to a few days. I mix mounds of coloured petals - these are like my paint pots. Each petal is individually glued on to plywood starting from the outside and working into the middle.
WHAT ARE THE MAIN CHALLENGES INVOLVED IN CREATING YOUR WORK? // One of the first things people ask when they stand in front of one of my pieces is “how long did this take to make?!” It takes over 9000 petals to make one of the four-foot pieces. When I first started making the collages, I cut each petal with scissors. After developing repetitive strain syndrome, I had to look for help making them. I always work on every piece though. The amount of time involved in making them is also a benefit. The physical and repetitive act is therapeutic and becomes meditative in itself. It forces you to slow down and be still.
WHICH ARTWORK HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE? // I really don’t see things as challenges - I prefer to stay rooted in the positive and find solutions or let go and see what new direction takes shape. There was one piece of work I created in 2012 after seeing Usain Bolt run for the first time. To this date, it’s the largest piece and the only figurative collage piece I’ve made. I knew I was going to present it to him one day - I didn’t know how or when. Last year the opportunity arose when a good friend told me he was going to be at his club in London. Usain loved it and now it will be going to his home in Jamaica.
WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF AS AN ARTIST IN 10 YEARS TIME? // This is a difficult question as I always challenge myself and live outside my comfort zone, so my plans evolve all the time. I would like to be working with museums and much larger scale projects. Start to think about working out in space. Working on projects that benefit communities that need support.
WHERE WOULD YOUR DREAM STUDIO BE LOCATED? // This space was my dream. I’m in it.
IF YOU WERE NOT AN ARTIST WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING? // Something creative like designing homes. I love the spaces people live in.
WHEN DID YOU REALISE THE ART WORLD WAS FOR YOU? // I’ve always felt it was for me just took a lot of courage 7 years ago to commit where there was no turning back. Burn all my bridges and make it happen!
YOUR FAVOURITE ARTIST? // Ananda Walters and Chris Ofili.
YOUR FAVOURITE GALLERY? // Gagosian.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE A NEW ARTIST STARTING OUT? // I’d give the same advice I was given by a mentor Chris Ofili. Paint/create every single day. Build that muscle and discipline. Also, don’t aim to please other people with your work - be true to your voice, your vision.
WHAT ART DO YOU MOST IDENTIFY WITH? // The free, creative expression of children.
ART ASIDE, WHAT INSPIRES YOU? // I LOVE listening to inspiring people, interviews, and documentaries. I love learning.
IF YOU COULD OWN ANY PIECE OF ARTWORK WHAT WOULD IT BE? // “Untitled,” a Basquiat painting from 1982.
IF YOU COULD SPEND A DAY WITH ANY ARTIST ALIVE OR DEAD WHO WOULD IT BE? // Andy Warhol.
YOUR GREATEST LOVE? // My family.
YOUR GREATEST FEAR? // Last breath..
WHAT IS YOUR EARLIEST MEMORY? // Playing with a spider on my back door step.
WHO IS YOUR ROLE MODEL AND WHY? // My Mum. She has a lot of qualities I love and many I don’t like, both of which makes me want to be a better person.
WHAT IS THE LAST GIFT YOU GAVE SOMEONE? // My mum some aromatherapy bath salts.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE CHILDREN? // Be yourself, honest, kind and always try your best.
YOUR WORST TRAIT? // I’m very hard on myself and never take a break.
THE WORST TRAIT IN OTHERS THAT GETS YOU MAD? // When you say something and don’t do it.
LAST RECORD / DOWNLOAD YOU BOUGHT? // Gypsy Woman (She’s Homeless) 48th St. collective - Vintage Approach.
LAST BOOK YOU BOUGHT? // Basquiat Boom For Real.
THE CLOSEST YOU HAVE COME TO DEATH? // An allergic reaction to something which almost stopped me from breathing.
FAVOURITE TRAVEL DESTINATION? // I’m loving Dubai right now as I’m here. Tokyo is a very special place.
LEAST FAVOURITE TRAVEL DESTINATION? // Traveling through Wiarton in Canada during an ice storm.
WHAT MAKES YOU LAUGH? // My kids.
WHAT MAKES YOU CRY? // Missing family or close friends.
YOUR MESSAGE? // Use your time wisely you will never get it back.