Remi Rough. Selected works 2015 - 2017

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REMI ROUGH SELECTED WORKS 2015 - 2017 _

Selected works from _ SOUND PIGMENTS _ Magda Danysz Gallery. Paris FR _ 2017 RE-DEFINE _ Dallas Contemporary. Dallas USA _ 2017 SYMPHONY OF SYSTEMATIC MINIMALISM _ Wunderkammern Gallery. Rome IT _ 2017 STREET GENERATIONS _ La Condition Publique / Magda Danysz Gallery. Roubaix FR _ 2017 POST _ Speerstra Gallery. Bursins CH _ 2016 ARTMOSSPHERE BIENNALE _ Moscow RU _ 2016 MB6 MARRAKECH BIENNALE _ Marrakech MA _ 2016 PUBLIC PROVOCATIONS _ Colab Gallery. Weil am Rhein DE _ 2015 HOME _ Scream Gallery. London UK _ 2015 AMBIGUITY _ Zimmerling and Jungfleisch Gallery. Saarbrucken DE _ 2015 _

Introduction by Charley Peters and critical essay by Marta Silvi. _

© 2017 _



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Remi Rough in his studio, London 2014. _ Studio portrait by Michelle Morgan. _ _ Contact - remi@remirough.com M. +44 (0) 7803 052 782


Remi Rough selected works 2015 - 1017 Introduction by Charley Peters.

This publication catalogues a selection of Remi Rough’s work shown over a period of two years between 2015-2017. Rough’s work is characterised by its high energy, hard edged abstract compositions, produced on walls in the street, and canvas and panels in the studio. In the publication’s critical essay by Marta Silvi, Rough’s work is positioned in relation to key moments in modernist art history - Suprematism, Constructivism, Neo-Plasticism – relating to his signature use of grids, lines and geometric abstraction as fundamental pictorial elements. In Western art history the grid, in particular, has become identified as an emblem of modernism. In her pivotal essay ‘Grids’, the art historian Rosalind Krauss wrote that ‘the grid functions to declare the modernity of modern art’. She continued to discuss how by finding the grid, de Stijl, Mondrian, Malevich and before them, the cubists, landed in a radical place, unconnected from all that had gone before them. That radical place was the present, and everything else was ‘declared to be the past’. Whereas grids and geometric abstraction existed in a revolutionary place in the early twentieth century, I would argue that in today’s post-analogue digital landscape, these signifiers of radical abstraction are commonplace and normalised through our familiarity with screensavers, desktop icons and Photoshop’s image manipulation tools. The contemporary image world is a transient space, characterised by fastpaced, layered images – collages of numerous fragmented pictures that move dynamically in and out of our optical registers. In this respect Rough moves beyond a mimicry of modernist aesthetics and into a contemporary gesture of sampling and reappropriation. For example, in Rough’s ‘Black Square Remixed’ (2016) we aren’t seeing a pure homage to Malevich, but moreover a mashup of context, referent and Rough’s formal concerns in terms of painting.

The concept of modernity, as applied to Western cities in the 19th and early 20th centuries, incorporates ideas about networked spaces, in which there was a fluid movement of information, energy and people across the urban environment. Rough’s early work as a graffiti writer situates his formative practice on the streets as an expression of the modern urban condition. In this regard graffiti is not only an urban cultural product but also a means of transforming and exploring the space of urbanity. Now having a prolific studio practice, Rough’s work still investigates spatial concerns. His works on canvas and wood suggest a sense of space that is both structured and infinite. His sublimely rendered surfaces display bursts of dynamic movement within the pictorial plane, anchored by vanishing points that extend beyond the boundaries of the edge of the image. In recent years Rough has also made ‘paintings’ that exist in threedimensional space, reconfiguring his compositional concerns in physical encounters. His work for 15 Classes (2015), St Jean de Luz presents us with a room in which to both ‘see’ and ‘be seen in’ one of his paintings – the experience is immersive and reinforces the nature of painting as physical encounter as well as spectacle. In later installations such as ‘Symphonia’ (2017), synthetic felt and acrylic, Wunderkammern Gallery, there is a softening of line that is suggestive of Rough’s more gestural marks with spray paint. The frequent shifts of scale and space in Rough’s work collapses set definitions of dimensionality, locating his painting as an active endeavor that develops and redefines itself across time. In Rough’s work there is an acknowledgment of the significance of modernism through his references to key art historical movements, links to urbanity and spatial authority. He treats these tropes as material to sample in order to create something new. In turn, there is also a questioning of how we perceive the modern retrospectively; querying whether we can see any one period in time as more ‘modern’ than another, when each generation reworks the experiences of visual culture in an ongoing cycle of images, symbols and iconography. In Selected Works 2015-2017, we see shapes, colours and spaces familiar to us as signifiers of modernity, remixed by Rough’s postmodern sensibilities.


Corbusier loves chocolate Graphite, acrylic and spray paint on wood 90 x 90cm _ Sound pigments Villa Molitor / Magda Danysz Gallery. Paris FR _ 2017 _ _



Crisis in Denial Graphite, acrylic and spray paint on wood 90 x 90cm _ Sound pigments Villa Molitor / Magda Danysz Gallery. Paris FR _ 2017 _ _



Blochaus Graphite, acrylic and spray paint on wood 40 x 40cm _ Sound pigments Villa Molitor / Magda Danysz Gallery. Paris FR _ 2017 _ _



Opera off the shores of Orion Graphite, acrylic and spray paint on wood 40 x 40cm _ Sound pigments Villa Molitor / Magda Danysz Gallery. Paris FR _ 2017 _ _



Inevitable access Graphite, acrylic and spray paint on wood 90 x 90cm _ Sound pigments Villa Molitor / Magda Danysz Gallery. Paris FR _ 2017 _ _



VCU Interior lobby mural _ Virginia Commonwealth University Richmond, Virginia USA _ 2017 _ _




VCU Mural _ Virginia Commonwealth University Richmond, Virginia USA _ 2017 _ _


On the oblique line Critical essay by Marta Silvi for ‘Symphony of systematic minimalism’, Wunderkammern Gallery Rome. April 2017. Like the author of an essay on composition, Remi Rough (London, 1971) uses lines, shapes and colour, respecting their values and balances. Appreciating their qualities and their possibilities, he performs in two dimensions, with a suggestion of the third, and beyond that, infinity. Symphony of Systematic Minimalism; this is how Rough defines his last production, giving the title to the exhibition at Wunderkammern. In this term he suggests two fundamental themes for his research: the sound/music element (he has been composing and playing music for over twenty years), and the minimalist repertoire he takes inspiration from. On this occasion the artist purposely composed an audio soundtrack which embraced and virtually connected the artworks; large and small canvasses, works on paper and an installation in the gallery basement, a celebration of the line and its endless changes. As the artist states, “My practice is essentially systems based. The music is designed on grids. The entire show, both music and paintings are all just lines on a grid.”

and Russian Constructivism a gratifying experience of three-dimensional pictorial space. The artist draws from the formal surface of Russian Constructivism yet goes beyond its fundamental principles. If Mondrian confers an order to nature and to its surrounding reality, harnessing it and systemising it through his famous orthogonal lines, Rough breaks the composition, adopting the diagonal, the oblique line, which produces a rapid and unexpected shift. There are obvious Futurist reminiscences, where shapes appear to lay one upon the other on different illusionary levels and temporal moments, crossing in various depths of transparency. The use of primary colours, protagonists in many of his works, aligns with principles of Dutch neo-Plasticism, to be reconsidered in the shades of spray paint, an urban tool which is combined with the original use of the “neon pink” tone, the signature of the artist. 1 Kandinsky, W., On the Spiritual in Art, 1912 in The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, for the Museum of Non-Objective Painting, New York City, 1946, Edited And Translated by Hilla Rebay, p.35. https://archive.org/stream/onspiritualinart00kand/onspiritualinart00kand_djvu.txt

Movements I’ve been through, the title of this composition, recalls electronic sounds from the Eighties (Kraftwerk, for example) dusted with a certain irony with the complicity of the audio extract, a tribute to the ready-made itself, where Marcel Duchamp explains his migrations through the great currents of Art History – Impressionism, Fauvism, Cubism – before approaching a finally personal expression, so “not influenced by movements I have been through”.

Some of the artworks in the exhibition – such as Lenny Speaks and Unconventional (2017) - seem to be inspired by the great Russian artist, in particular his Yellow-RedBlue (1925). Mystic forms in black squares by Malevich come back as a faded tribute, as a mention to the Absolute which settles on the underlying movement, willingly losing the strength and the nihilistic power of the original: see Antartica 12 and MEO (2017).

The abstract nature of music, which pushed Kandinsky to theorisations collected in On the Spiritual in Art, becomes a privileged vehicle of emotions and a bridge towards pure abstraction which “has used this means, not so much to represent natural phenomena but rather, as an expression of the artist’s spiritual life and to the creation of a unique life of musical sounds.” 1 states Kandinsky.

The installation set up in the basement space recalls a cavern; the cave where energies are detonated, the controlled action field. An ancestral but not distant suggestion, for example, of the Cavern of Antimatter by Pinot Gallizio (1958-59), where the only protagonist was painting, spread on long stripes of canvas, to cut and sell by the metre as goods of industrial production. In Rough’s installation, presented in an analogue form at the Artmosphere Street Art Biennale of Moscow in 2016, the oblique line materialises invading space and regenerates it. Minimalist sculpture of the Sixties-Seventies,

In the spaces conceived by Remi Rough we can find the Renaissance lesson of Piero della Francesca. There are the perspectives and vanishing points that make De Stijl


and in particular Robert Morris’s Felt pieces, which were left to interact and fall randomly and according to gravity, are also to be mentioned as referents. The space where the artwork is placed becomes an integral part of the work; its physicality is highlighted in contrast with the content. The “anti-form” consequently becomes its final form, which the material spontaneously takes in, contrasting with the artist’s projects. The art of Remi Rough originates from the street, from the urban scene, although of late its has naturally migrated towards canvas, paper and wood, shifting towards the more meditative dimension of the studio. “The journey was a slow realisation that I didn’t quite belong to the movement I was part of”, says the artist. The increasingly more frequent entrance of graffiti in the galleries’ white cube and in the auratic museum space is nothing new; Haring and Basquiat are proof of that, when expression becomes iconic, the public expresses the unstoppable will to take away a tiny piece and the artist to subtract it to the inescapable signs of time and decay. The migration of Street Art to the core of the art system is a trend which many consider as an epilogue; yet it is the confirmation of its inner vitality and of the necessity of an inner renewal. Rough moves away from the movement once its original prerequisites disappear: rebellion, purity and spontaneity, all of which had defined its beginning. As he states: “The current movement of Street Art is an exercise in Instagram strategies.” The need to shield and give posterity to art which is otherwise perishable due to its nature, leads many artists to individuate new containers and new aims. Thus, Rough collected his sketches in #RoughSketches - Volume1, 2016, developing a sort of absorbing illustrated tale where short texts trigger memories connected to the evolution of each work or to encounters that they have generated: “Sketches and blackbooks are the deepest sense of history and insight that we have. The walls and trains will crumble and be cleaned and the tags will fade but the sketchbooks will live on. The drawings we do in other artists’ blackbooks,

the books we give to other people as gifts will remain long after we are gone.”2 2 Remi Rough, “#RoughSketches Volume1”, Unicorn Publishing Group, London, 2016, p. 1.

Rough is considered one of the most prominent abstract ‘post-graffiti’ artists. The prefix “post” depicts contemporary reality in a non-affirmative dimension, as an identity defined by exclusion and by excess. Post-modern, post-military, post-colonial, post-digital, etc., are words which insistently echo in our current vocabulary. The prefix “post” therefore indicates a loss, a delegitimisation, such as the one of the “great tales” (grands récits, to quote J-F Lyotard), namely of philosophic and ideological perspectives which, since the time of Enlightenment, had inspired and conditioned the beliefs and values of occidental culture, but also a sort of lateral development. In the recent works by Remi Rough, letters, characters and any realistic or narrative elements disappear to make space for original geometric forms; the metanarratives have outlived their purpose. To quote the abstract expressionist Barnett Newman, “Old standards of beauty were irrelevant: the sublime was all that was appropriate - an experience of enormity which might lift modern humanity out of its torpor.” Concludes the artist. Forms and colours in the works of Remi Rough are notes on a score where finding beginning or end is no longer necessary. Played in a loop, they become a seismograph of emotions, far from every epic, finalistic and consequential desire. They are new, consciously open fields lacking a traditional linear vision where surface becomes the vibrating space of the artwork.


Symphonia _ Installation with synthetic felt and acrylic paint Symphony of systematic minimalism. Wunderkammern Gallery. Rome IT _ 2017 _ _



MEO Graphite, acrylic and spray paint on herringbone linen 120 x 120cm _ Symphony of systematic minimalism Wunderkammern Gallery. Rome IT _ 2017 _ _



Antartica 12 Graphite, acrylic and spray paint on herringbone linen 90 x 90cm _ Symphony of systematic minimalism Wunderkammern Gallery. Rome IT _ 2017 _ _



Unconventional Graphite, acrylic and spray paint on herringbone linen 150 x 150cm _ Symphony of systematic minimalism Wunderkammern Gallery. Rome IT _ 2017 _ _



Late night excursions Graphite, acrylic and spray paint on herringbone linen 120 x 120cm _ Symphony of systematic minimalism Wunderkammern Gallery. Rome IT _ 2017 _ _



Illuminated Graphite, acrylic and spray paint on herringbone linen 120 x 120cm _ Symphony of systematic minimalism Wunderkammern Gallery. Rome IT _ 2017 _ _



Everything in it’s right place Graphite, acrylic and spray paint on herringbone linen 120 x 180cm _ Symphony of systematic minimalism Wunderkammern Gallery. Rome IT _ 2017 _ _



Who’s afraid of pink and red? Graphite, acrylic and spray paint on herringbone linen 120 x 120cm _ Symphony of systematic minimalism Wunderkammern Gallery. Rome IT _ 2017 _ _



The whole thing must live Graphite, acrylic and spray paint on wood 90 x 90cm _ Symphony of systematic minimalism Wunderkammern Gallery. Rome IT _ 2017 _ _




Street Generations installation _ La Condition Publique / Magda Danysz Gallery. Roubaix FR _ 2016 _ Photograh by Stéphane Bisseuil © 2017 _


Mural _ MusĂŠe Mohammed VI. Rabat MA _ 2016 _ _



The Absolute Graphite, acrylic and spray paint on herringbone linen 120 x 120cm _ RE-DEFINE Dallas Contempory. Dallas USA 2017 _ _



Mural _ Wood Street Walls London UK _ 2016 _ _



POST Mural _ POST Speerstra Gallery. Bursins CH _ 2016 _ _



Ghost series _ I Graphite, acrylic and spray paint on canvas 76 x 76cm _ POST Speerstra Gallery. Bursins CH _ 2016 _ _



Loaded Graphite, acrylic and spray paint on wood 100 x 100cm _ POST Speerstra Gallery. Bursins CH _ 2016 _ _



Ghost Series _ II Graphite, acrylic and spray paint on canvas 90 x 90cm _ POST Speerstra Gallery. Bursins CH _ 2016 _ _



Ghost Series _ IV Graphite, acrylic and spray paint on canvas 100 x 100cm _ POST Speerstra Gallery. Bursins CH _ 2016 _ _



My heart in my mouth Ink, graphite and spray paint on handmade paper 21 x 30cm _ POST Speerstra Gallery. Bursins CH _ 2016 _ _



Derisive Graphite and spray paint on handmade paper 21 x 30cm _ POST Speerstra Gallery. Bursins CH _ 2016 _ _



Unit one Graphite and spray paint on handmade paper 21 x 30cm _ POST Speerstra Gallery. Bursins CH _ 2016 _ _



Fold _ Installation with Natural felt and acrylic paint Artmossphere Biennale. Moscow RU _ 2016 _ _



Perpetual Motion _ Mural painted for Colab Gallery Weil am Rhein DE _ 2016 _ _




Descension _ Mural painted for the MB6 Marrakech Biennale Marrakech MA _ 2016 _ Photograph by Ian Cox Š 2016 _


Triangularity _ I Graphite, acrylic and spray paint on canvas 90 x 90cm _ Public Provocations Colab Gallery. Weil am Rhein DE _ 2016 _ _



Triangularity _ IV Graphite, acrylic and spray paint on canvas 100 x 100cm _ Public Provocations Colab Gallery. Weil am Rhein DE _ 2016 _ _



Installation _ 15 Classes St Jean de Luz FR _ 2015 _ Photograph by Damian Dohmen © 2015 _



Black square remixed Graphite and spray paint on handmade paper 21 x 30cm _ Home Scream Gallery. London UK _ 2015 _ _



Mural _ Home Scream Gallery. London UK _ 2015 _ _



Opulence Graphite, acrylic and spray paint on canvas 152 x 92.5cm _ Ambiguity Zimmerling and Jungflsisch Gallery. Saarbrucken DE _ 2015 _ _



Continuation Graphite, acrylic and spray paint on canvas 100 x 100cm _ Ambiguity Zimmerling and Jungflsisch Gallery. Saarbrucken DE _ 2015 _ _



Selected solo exhibitions _ 09.17 – Sound pigments. Villa Molitor / Magda Danysz Gallery. Paris FR 04.17 – Symphony of systematic minimalism. Wunderkammen Gallery, Rome IT 11.16 – Post. Speertstra. Bursins CH 10.15 – Home. Scream Gallery. London UK 10.14 – Motivational Therapy. Whitewalls Gallery. San Francisco USA 07.14 – Further Adventures In Abstraction. Soze Gallery. Los Angeles USA 10.12 – In the presence of Angels. Soze Gallery. Los Angeles USA _ Selected group exhibitions _ 11.17 – The Discerning Eye. The Mall Galleries. London UK 10.17 – Compendium. Treason Gallery. Seattle USA 09.17 – Adventures in Abstraction. StolenSpace Gallery. London UK 03.17 – MTV Re-Define. Dallas Contemporary. Dallas USA 04.16 – Jidar. Museé Mohammed VI. Rabat MA 02.16 – MB6 Marrakech Biennale. Marrakech MA 08.15 – 15 Classes. St-Jean-de-Luz FR 08.15 – Direction/Instruction. Super Ordinary. Denver USA 06.15 – Street Art, Fine Art. Pace Gallery. London UK 06.15 – Public Provocations. Colab Gallery. Weil am Rhein DE 06.15 – Masters of Street Art. Magda Danysz Gallery. London UK 05.15 – Ambiguity. Zimmerling & Jungfleisch. Saarbrucken DE 03.15 – Urban Art Biennale. The Volklinger Huette Museum. Volklinger DE _



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