Roa’s Show at Stolen Space, a gallery owned by graffiti artist named D*Face. The gallery had a front where they had another artist with canvases and a merchandise corner with prints on display right as you enter. Toward the back it looked like a storage space but it was actually Roa’s Projectum 06 exhibit. The installations were placed in a way which allowed it to play with the spectators perception and the gallery space with the use of mirrors, revolving doors, and interactive elements that reveal hidden objects and the internal organs of the animals.
The work seems to have a different life inside the gallery because of the interaction with the spectator. Roa’s public art is beautifully detailed and much larger and still interacts with the environment because of the placement of the work, but there are no hidden surprises; everything you see is what you get. Perhaps he felt the need for there to be an interactive element so that that sense of the direct relationship with people does not fade away because of the appropriated space.
Roa is a Belgium artist who uses animals to communicate our relationship with urban spheres. The animals are local to the area that Roa paints and they represent a pure form of life which is intermixed with the grungy atmosphere of the city. He exposes the internal organs to the spectator because they are a vital element to our existence and they represent life even in death. Therefore, Roa paints on the subject of life, death and life after death. It could also cover the topic of environmentalism if you choose to look at it that way as well. Hence, the works are very much conceptual with a lot of symbolism and viewer interaction both physically and mentally; it is not just art for aesthetic purposes and entertainment, it has the ability to stimulate the viewers mind.
Because of the grungy look to the animals it makes me wonder what is it that appeals to viewers about Roa’s work… it also lacks much color and vibrancy usually associated with graffiti and street art. Perhaps when in public spheres the great malformation of scale creates a sense of awe when confronted with them vis-a-vis. This may be true especially because his work is photo-realistic. The animals are recognizable and are portrayed doing ordinary things, yet they have some sort of darkness which leaves a creepy after taste as you walk away from the work. The gallery work on the other hand lacks the same awe derived from scale yet there is still a sense of creepiness and wonder because of the play with perception and hidden elements. The fact that something else was hiding behind another wall made me hesitate a little before moving forward.
The gallery has a website which talks about the show and future shows as well. I am sad to say I missed the Miss Van show prior to my arrival to the UK as well as the group show with Word to Mother, C215 and other emerging artists after my leave. But the Roa show was pretty dang cool and I’m glad I got to see it for myself.