SS Exclusive: Interview with Joram Roukes

SS Exclusive: Interview with Joram Roukes

Dutch painter, Joram Roukes’ large scale oil paintings anthropomorphize objects and pop iconography into unusual creatures in a surreal dimension between figuration and abstraction.  His visually bold canvases and exciting compositions speak volumes about the nature of today’s society, indulging it its wild excess and examining its dark realities. To celebrate Roukes’ incredible new body of work ‘Les Bons Sauvages,’ opening 15 March at StolenSpace Gallery, we’ve brought you an SS exclusive interview to get inside this talented artist’s creative, complex mind…We like it in there. Enjoy.

SS: We are so please to have your work at StolenSpace Gallery for the first time.  Tell us  a little bit about how you became involved in graffiti and street art, who were your biggest influences? Do they still affect the way you make work?

JR: I was always into drawing as a kid. However drawing birds wasnt super cool. In highschool I discovered graffiti through friends who were interested in it. I came across the work of Amsterdam graffiti legend Delta. I was obsessed with this so I started drawing similar pieces. It grew to be some sort of addiction to me. Always drawing and practicing tags in my school notebooks. It took years before i did my first actual piece in the streets but once I did it only became more interesting.

SS: Your upcoming show ‘Les Bons Sauvages’ deals with the subject of folklore and tradition. How do you feel these folkloric festivities fit in todays society? Can you explain this title and tell us a bit about what this concept means to you?

JR: I got started around December with this subject because we celebrate the nameday of the famous Saint Nicholas. He is a tall white man, like a cardinal, on a white horse, coming to Holland every year on december 5th to give presents to children. He is accompanied by an army of black helpers called ‘zwarte piet’, or ‘black pete’. Needless to say this causes loads of racial controversy every year around ‘Sinterklaas’ time.

I started wondering about tradition. What the point to it is nowadays as there actually are people who are unaware that christmas is a holliday to celebrate the birth of Jesus.

These traditions are what are ought to make us civilized beings. Having a cultural base for the rituals we uphold but if the cause for it is lost so is the aspect of civilization.

We just do it ‘because we do it’.

SS: You come from both a fine and graffiti art background and your work seamlessly blends the two worlds into one. How do you feel the two different styles and techniques compliment each other? In your opinion, what does this contrast bring to your work?

JR: The oil paint approach surely brings a timlessness to the works in my opinion. The many ways of which oils allow you to work with it is ever challenging and keeps me interested. The fine art background helps me contextualize my paintings and subjects and allowd me to develop a narrative and contemporary approach where the graffiti background adds a dynamic, and energetic and visually attractive aesthetic.

SS: Your work consistently draws together elements of popular culture, nature, portraiture, abstraction and graffiti into a painted collage of sorts.  Where do you source your imagery?  Is there a process or formula to your arrangements or are they a spontaneous compositional decision?

JR:  I find images everywhere. Internet, magazines, i take photographs. I look for combinations of imagery that either complement or juxtapose eachother. Creating an interesting contrast which allows for interpretation. Putting them together is often an intuitive process.

SS: Your current work explores the gritty, somewhat violent underside of contemporary western culture, while at the same time your vibrant paintings are very playful, dreamlike and whimsical.  What is your relationship to this recurrent metaphor?  Would you say your motivation is critical or an attempt to reconcile these two aspects of today’s world?

JR: I think this contrast is a way of putting the darkness in perspective as well as to show a dark side to the playfulness. It works both ways. I’m interested in these cliches. The beautiful decay, trouble in paradise, etc. It serves sort of say to show that there is a lot going on behind the polished facade of western society. I made a painting for this show that shows a family portrait like situation of Minnie Mouse after she seemingly broke up with Mickey and moved on with this bovine creature and got custody over Pluto. Its mostly irony but there imminently is a serious hue to it as well.

For more Joram, be sure to attend the private view this evening, 14 March, 6-9 pm