Words in the Rough: An Interview With Remi Rough

Story By TK Mills. Photos Courtesy of Remi Rough

San Marco

When did you first start creating art? Was there a pivotal moment in your life when you decided to pursue art as a full-time profession?

As a profession? 1984, I took it seriously since the first moment I started painting graffiti… I didn’t begin making a real living from it until the mid 90’s though I guess and I was balancing making art with graphic design until I’d say 2004 when I got my first studio and decided to ditch the graphic design in favour of painting full time.

Do you have an artistic mission or philosophy that guides your artistic style?

My philosophy is to simply make original and good work! I stand firmly behind the fact that there is still originality out there and there’s many amazing artists breaking new ground on a daily basis. Sadly there’s also a tremendous amount of biters and copyists too. My mission is to break people’s conceptions of what graffiti writing can become. It’s such an important movement, being the only art movement in history to be created by and taken forward by children, that it deserves gravitas. Hopefully I, amongst my peers, can help that along.

In The Bronx next to WallWorks NY Gallery

What attracts you to abstract & minimalistic designs? How has your style evolved since you began spray painting graffiti?

I have always been intrigued by space and composition, when I was a more traditional graffiti writer I felt so confined by the spaces I was so often painting that I started really messing with the compositions and then I stripped my letters down to all black wild styles because I thought there was far too much peripheral crap being put into most graffiti piece, I still think there is to this day! I personally can’t stand this fat cap technique, if you strip those pieces down there’s absolutely no style and in my humble opinion this movement was always about sheer style.

Downtown Jacksonville Florida for Art Republic Global

Your art demonstrates a strong understanding of color theory, using complimentary and contrasting colors to evoke feelings in the viewer. How do you think your use of color compares to your works that focus on black and white?

Colour is the most fantastic tool to convey your ideas. I guess I just like to make colour work for me. When I work in monochrome its more about composition and dynamic. When I work in colour it’s far easier though. But the colours I use are not always complimentary, I really like to use colours that work against each other too.

Parking Garage in Jacksonville Florida for Art Republic Global

Do you prefer painting on canvases or buildings? Why?

They’re both canvasses, just made of different materials. I actually work more nowadays on ply panels that I have specially made. I like the organic grain of the wood showing through the clean and graphic colourful shapes. The contrast is reminiscent of how when I was young the concrete, brick or steel surfaces I would paint showed through behind my pieces. Surface is such an important factor in painting, whether it’s wall, panel or canvas. I actually can’t say that I prefer one over the other though, they both very different and I need both to balance each other perfectly.

In the Bronx For Stonewall 50th Anniversary

In the over 25 years you’ve been a part of the art world, you’ve traveled the globe for different projects. Outside of the UK, is there any place that you’ve fallen in love with? 

It’s more like 35 now. I started in 84. I have always had a passion for Paris, two of my galleries are there, Speerstra and Magda Danysz and I am there so much nowadays. I have to say though, my utmost favourite destination of late is without doubt Hong Kong, it was a real Blade Runner experience for me. I went twice last year and absolutely loved it! I cannot wait to get back out there.

Outside of your art, what do you do for fun? Do you have other hobbies that you do to de-stress?

I’m not sure I’d call it a hobby, as it’s become another profession of sorts but I make music. A kind of hybrid electronic Hip Hop. I also record music with my good friend Mike Ladd who is an American Rapper, Poet and producer originally from Boston who now lives and works in Paris. We have just completed an entire album under the moniker of ‘TheDeadCanRap’ We’re just mixing and mastering it at the moment and hope to have it out over the summer. I also make instrumental music for film and video sometimes.


What is the most memorable collaboration or partnership you’ve done?

Without doubt the project I completed in Hong Kong last year for the MTR and Swire Properties during Art Basel Hong Kong. It’s an absolutely massive permanent printed mural in one of Hong Kong’s mainline stations; Quarry Bay. It was an amazing job from start to finish.

What are you most proud of, artistically or otherwise?

My daughter Lili, who has only recently turned 15, she’s an amazing little human being and becoming an amazingly talented actress and musician. I don’t think there’s any artistic endeavour that could even come close to my pride in her.

In Roubaix France for Street Generations

What made you decide to adopt ‘Remi Rough’ as a moniker? What do you think is the importance of having an ‘art name’?

I have two very good friends to blame for this, Stormie Mills who is one of my oldest artist friends and Charlie Dark, who is an amazing musician and we were also at school together. Both of them always referred to me as Remi Rough and it stuck prior to that my real name was simply Remi and my graffiti name was Rough. It’s their fault...

He is on Instagram @REMIROUGH