“Graffiti is one of the most liberating art expressions of the world, you don’t do it for money or institution, it’s a free expression and it frees you creatively from a lot of restrictions”.
Echoing the perspective of many street artists who share themselves through their creativity with the world, ROA brings to life (and death) his paintings on neglected buildings and walls around the globe. Not always knowing where he is going to paint, he is versatile of making whatever he has around him work around his art.
ROA’s Background and Influences
Born and raised in Belgium ROA would scavenge for dead animal skulls then bring them back home so he would have a reference for his drawings. His youthful curiosity reflects the rest of his art career. Growing up in the 80’s he was fascinated by America’s style and general popular culture. With a lack of graffiti and street art to influence his aspiring art career in Belgium he again looked towards America. ROA started off writing graffiti wherever he could similar to how most graffiti artists learn the ropes. Initially, he did not have a specific style to his work as there was no local graffiti to inspire him . However, with his love for animals and his old habits of scavenging dead animals, he began to work those ideas into his art. The results arehis now distinctively reknown style of producing bigger than life anatomical animal creations.
Not only has ROA developed a distinct style, but he is very detailed and patient with what he paints. ROA spends hours upon hours on the animals he paints whether it’s scales or fur, it all must look realistic no matter how large the scale. This attention to detail especially comes through when he paints the internal organs and bones which either mesmerize or gross people out. Once ROA had found his focus and influence, he realized he would be able to pursue art as a full time career..
Meaning to ROA’s Art
Painted on a huge scale, animals, usually in a state of decay or with viewable internal anatomy, are the primary focus within ROA’s work. Depending on the location of the painting, ROA will incorporate animals native to that specific region. This helps ROA not only connects with the new territory where his art will live, but it also connects his artwork on a more local to the people who live there.
ROA’s style continually gravitates towards using black, white, and grey hues, though he adds a touch of specific color when painting the internal organs of the animal in his depiction.. Based around the hues he chooses, ROA’s animal artwork tackles the larger topics of life, death, and life after death. He illustrates creatures in the most genuine, authentic mode to shed light to on animal cruelty show the worst kind of human impacton animals. By having animals depicted innocently, his art pulls at human conscience bringing light to how we treat earth and other species.
In an interview with Fat Cap, the ROA mentions that he does a lot of collaborations with artists that do not speak his language. This is not surprising as these days he is travelling the world completing large scale mural projects with foreign artists as he enjoys the journey his art and creations are taking him on. When he does get back to Belgium, he noted he gets together with his friends and mixes his art style into their work. ROA’sperspective is and remains that graffiti is meant to be liberating and crashing styles liberates the art.
It’s been awhile since ROA has done a commercial collaboration. Back in 2012 though,, ROA worked with The Skateroom to put together what they called the Decay Series. In this collaboration, ROA painted a cycle of a dead rat decaying on a series of skateboards. With the money raised from selling the boards, ROA The Skateroom travelled to Phnom Penh, Cambodiaand donated $15,000 to Skateistan facility to help develop Skate and Create lessons in Cambodia! As an added bonus while he was there, ROA was also able to paint a giant firefly on a water tower at a local elementary school. He used phosphorous (glow in the dark) paint so the mural would light up for the children when the sun went down.
Where to Find ROA’s Art
These days ROA’s large scale murals can be found around the globe from North Africa to Europe to North America, and more! Typically his murals appear on more rundown buildings in the course of giving the structure a new interactive life.
In addition to his mural work, ROA continually exhibits in Art Galleries around the world. In the summer of 2014, he had an major exhibit in London called “Projectum 06”. Located in StolenSpace Gallery. His most recent exhibit was in Keteleer Gallery in Antwerp, Belgium in 2017. The exhibit,called “Cataclysm”,was presented over a three month span from October 7,2017 to January 7, 2018.
Rising from the graffiti scene ROA defined himself as an artist and muralist and the message he wants to express to the world. Whether it is life, death, or life after death, viewers of ROA’s art are always struck by the in your face nature of his massive scale animals that convey such a powerful message.