Mission: TO MAKE BEAUTIFUL IMAGES TO UPLIFT MYSELF AND OTHER PEOPLE
Back in July this year I was lucky enough to get to work at Upfest which is the Europe’s largest street art and graffiti festival. It’s held in the south of Bristol and one of the main locations is South Street Park where I was based for the day. It was amazing walking through the streets and seeing insanely talented artists bringing to life blank boards and walls. I got a chance to chat to some of the artists and this was how I met REQ.
REQ started painting graffiti murals in 1984 but he had been teaching himself to draw from a young age. “I didn’t know anyone else painting with spraypaint at that time so I devised some lessons for myself. My inspirations have varied over my artistic career. Starting with the style masters that can be seen in the Subway Art book. Also the London crew from the 80’s ‘The Chrome Angelz’. In 1986 I started a 25 year ongoing commission on the back of local record shop Rounder Records making spray paint interpretations of new album releases. This was my schooling in realism and it was how Norman Cook ended up asking me to paint onstage with his touring entertainment troupe ‘Norman Cook’s International Roadshow’ which later went on to become Beats International. In 1990 we travelled internationally off the back of his number 1 single ‘Dub be good to me’ as far as Africa, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. I would paint as the band played, (indoors with spraypaint!) and coincide my ending with the encore. The drummer was always the least happy about me because I would be directly behind him and he would get too high during the set!”
It was around this time that REQ met She1 who had moved from London to Brighton. “We painted solidly for about 5 years developing new forms of graffiti by learning and then transcending the inherited letter styles from 80’s New York. She1 was into quite complex wildstyle and we pushed along those lines until a distinct ‘Brighton Style’ was developed that was encapsulated by our offshoot crew DFM, spearheaded by FYRE (R.I.P) who was the greatest Brighton letterist at that time.”
Graffiti was still an interest for REQ so he formed 2 crews with some of the original Brighton writers that had stopped painting. “The best crew was TDK (The Dusty Knights) and was formed of Jas, Nylon, Euroh, Card2 and Jim Murray. Jason Brashill and Jim Murray were comic book artists for 2000AD so they brought a very high quality to the pieces we produced. Euro, Card and Nylon were letterists and I was somewhere in between with lettering and realism. The second crew was TFU – The Fuckest Uppest. If that sounds at all familiar to anyone it is because it was used in ‘Spaced’ the British comedy series. Jas did the drawing for the series and our TFU logo was used on a robot in one of the episodes. The ethic of TFU was to make deliberately naive paintings that had their inspiration in 70s New York and in the rubbishy styles of complete beginners. In this crew we all had different names…. Jas was Nozal, Nylon was Buick, Card was Vizor, I was Deli 402 and there was always a bunch of other people painting with us because the style was rubbish enough to allow for any level of talent. This was perhaps our own golden age of graffiti.”
In 1994 a local Trip-hop band called RPM asked REQ to paint the ceiling of their studio and then make a painting for the record sleeve of their release ‘2000’ on Mo’wax records. “This led to me being invited to paint at Swifty’s ‘Foster’s Ice Street Art’ event. I went on to paint various sleeves for Mo’wax record label. With the money I earned from this I bought a sampler and started a brief music career signed to Skint Records and later I had a couple of album releases on Warp records. I also worked for several years with illustrator Kid Acne making beats for his rap albums. When I stopped making music I had to decide how to re-approach my painting career. I’d lost interest in graffiti because I felt it was too American in style and attitude. The thuggish mentality that can come along with it I found quite unnecessary as part of being a painter. So I went on alone, developing a new style but without lettering to hang it on.”
In the old days REQ had been mostly using Hycote double acrylic spraypaint that was designed for car touch-ups. “When I came back to painting I started using Belton Molotow Premium and especially the semi transparent colours in the range. This was the advancement that led to the development of my current spraypainting style that I call Spraypaint Realism. It’s characterised by a kind of soft focus look that was an intentional step away from the graphic/linear look of graffiti and other ‘street art’. In my drawing too I discarded line-work and instead focused on purely tonal representations. The subject matter was the nude and portraiture and I managed to find a new Muse to pose for me.”
One of the biggest things which REQ has managed to overcome is the artist’s curse – the inability to start or finish a piece. “Working with my Muse gives me all the energy I need to conceive, produce and finish my work. It is no doubt different for other people but for me a beautiful young woman encapsulates all of my creative energy in her look. When I contemplate her all is balanced and I can begin my work because I no longer have to seek my counterpart. She balances all that seems missing in me and from there I feel artistically invincible! I paint to keep my energies correct, if I have become fixated on something and it feels uncomfortable mentally I paint a picture of my Muse and all is well! There is a correlation between our dynamic and an ordinary romantic/sexual relationship but the energies are transmuted into the more rarefied creative energy where beauty is exalted and sexual energy is harnessed for a greater cause, namely, the uplift of consciousness through the contemplation of her lovely beauty.”
This is where REQ currently is in his career now. “All of my personal work is what I call ‘Muse work’ and may be done in ink, watercolour, oil paint, pastel or spraypaint. My current Muse I refer to as HH. She inspires all of the images either directly with ideas or in a kind of biographical way where I see a look in her and decide to work it up as a finished piece. The current work is called ‘Spraypaint Fetish’. It features HH painted in oil paint in a box frame with spraypaint overlays that have her revealing and concealing parts of herself.” You can see more of his pieces in this series here. For Upfest this year he revived TDK as TDK 2.0 “with only myself as original member and Sinna1 as the new blood. I painted HH as dragon master unleashing a dragon painted by Sinna onto the hoards of mediocre graffiti and street art types.”
In 2014 REQ celebrated 30 years of painting with spraypaint. “To celebrate I started my Spraypaint Academy for Girls. I had the idea to train as many women as possible to balance out the over saturation of masculine street art and graffiti in order to see what the world would look like if feminine art was everywhere. I give free lessons to any woman via my Facebook page. Boys have to pay!” REQ uses a lot of lessons which he developed to teach himself to benefit his students.
If you’d like to keep up to date with what REQ is up to why not pop over to his Facebook page or check out his website.