ROA interview: 'Every wall has its own history'

The street artist talks about squirrels and finding inspiration in Victorian freak shows

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  • ROA

    Installation view of 'Projectum 06', 2014

    © Julie Aramburu

    ROA
  • ROA

    Installation view of 'Projectum 06', 2014

    © Julie Aramburu

    ROA
  • ROA

    Installation view of 'Projectum 06', 2014

    © Julie Aramburu

    ROA
  • ROA

    Installation view of 'Projectum 06', 2014

    © Julie Aramburu

    ROA
  • ROA

    Installation view of 'Projectum 06', 2014

    © Julie Aramburu

    ROA
  • ROA

    Installation view of 'Projectum 06', 2014

    © Julie Aramburu

    ROA
  • ROA

    © the artist

    ROA
  • ROA

    © the artist

    ROA
  • ROA

    © the artist

    ROA

ROA

Installation view of 'Projectum 06', 2014

© Julie Aramburu

The Belgian street artist has populated cities across the world with his giant paintings of animals. Now he has a new show indoors at Stolen Space gallery. He tells us about squirrels and finding inspiration in Victorian freak shows

Why did you start making work on the street?
'It was a natural reflex coming out of graffiti. I've always really enjoyed painting on walls. Every wall has its own history and context.'

Why do you paint animals and how do you choose which ones go where?
'It's a juxtaposition of nature and civilisation. The animals are mostly native to the country or relevant to the situation where I'm painting.'

Do you have a favourite animal?
'No, I really like them all from the smallest to the biggest. From the underdogs to the most exotic ones.'

What's the most memorable piece you've created?
'The large heron at Brick Lane is important as it stands for prosperity for the Bangladeshi communities. It's poignant for me because of the 1999 nail-bomb attack there. Also last year I painted a red and grey squirrel fighting on the Southbank; the grey squirrel being the intruder to the native red squirrel here in London.'

‘The street offers the context, in the gallery you are able to shape your own context’

How long do you spend on a work?
'It depends on the size, though no longer than one week for a large mural.'

How does it differ working in a gallery space compared to working on the street?
'The street offers the context, in the gallery you are able to shape your own context.'

What kind of feeling did you want to create with your show?
'An installation that is a sort of maze; inspired by Victorian circus-freak shows, halls of mirrors, so the viewer becomes immersed. It's almost impossible to capture it in a picture because of it's multiple angles, viewpoints and reflections.'

What themes do you focus on?
'My work is about the circle of life and biology in general.'

What do you think of Rizzo the Rat picking one of your pieces as his favourite street art in London for Time Out's Muppets takeover?
'I'm honoured because I've been a huge Jim Henson fan since I was a kid. I have a Rizzo The Rat at home. It's very flattering.'




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