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Roa: Codex

Lannoo Publishers is presenting the first overview of the work of ROA. CODEX is a selection of the famous Belgian artist’s work and is divided into four chapters, each focusing on the places where his work can be seen: Eurasia, Africa, America and Oceania.

ROA started his outdoor activities by painting on buildings and warehouses in his hometown of Ghent in Belgium. Today, his characteristic black-and-white murals are admired worldwide.

He is primarily known for his strong obsession with local animal species. Invariably placing these birds, rodents and other animals centre stage in the areas they live in or once lived in, his work rapidly gained attention.

Not only the location, but also the architecture on which and the environment in which he paints are important. The formal possibilities sparked by architectural variety are endless. ROA’s work is always a dialogue between the environment, the location, the architecture and his creativity. He works directly on the wall, almost never using sketches or projections.

ROA’s fauna (mammals, fish, insects, but no flora) dominate the village and cityscapes where they leap into action, forcing us to consider their too-often-unconsidered lives. In most cases, they are the little-known denizens with whom we share our places, rather than the usual stars of the diminishing animal world like elephants or tigers. Because of their scale and precision in which they are painted, the animals appear robust and animated, never pathetic or lifeless.

ROA is fascinated by anatomy and seems to crawl into the skin of his subjects in order to animate them. Even the tiniest creatures loom over built environments, temporary triumphs of nature over culture. However, there is a sadly ironic note to their visual monumentality, given the fact that the “dominant species” is not the animal kingdom, but the devious and dangerous human race.

His work is a version of the cross-cultural dialogues so badly needed these days. ‘Exploration of nature,’ he says, ‘more specifically of the animal world, can lead to increased empathy. It teaches you something substantial about how one should live a good life.’

The impact of ROA’s bestiaries can only increase as crucial decisions about the fate of our planetary companions are made every day, around the globe. Dedicated scientists are racing against time, ‘discovering’ previously unknown flora and fauna in areas threatened by corporate greed and local poverty. His unique combination of powerful aesthetics and eloquent but understated activism offers a significant model for artists everywhere by calling attention, or calling for attention, to a world that we know all too little about.

LDNGraffiti:

Starting out as a graffiti writer, Roa is now one of the worlds leading street artists and muralists. His studied and applied technique is appreciated wherever he visits, and his artworks have become much-loved, iconic pieces in the local landscapes they inhabit.

Codex is a magnificent volume charting the artists work across four domains of the world. Page after page, Roa's work delivers a delightful, constantly creative theme. Focusing on the local, less appreciated creatures, rendering them in immense scale, they own the space – rightly so!

The artworks often utilise multiple facets of buildings and walls, manipulating the space and revealing the inner physical structures and body systems. They create a darker and more profound narrative with a deeper relationship to the immediate environment.

Featuring hundreds of fantastic photos spread creatively over this large format, woven bound book. Codex documents the artists familiar pieces, and many unseen works around the world. A great addition to any collection.

Roa and LDNGraffiti Catch Up...


Where are you now in the world, and would you rather be somewhere else?

After my last exhibition in April at Backwoods, Melbourne, my flight got cancelled and I was stuck for a few weeks in lockdown in Australia. The title of the show was ‘Annihilation’ and was decided weeks before the pan-epidemic spread out across the world… The day of the opening was unreal; there was no public because of the Covid-19 prevention, so I haven't seen many of my Australian friends, nor people. Currently I am back in Belgium where I was supposed to paint a mural, but still in quarantine. I can definitely sum up a list of other preferred destinations, but as long we are staying safe, I have no reason to complain thinking about all the people in different situations.

How are you managing with these testing times, are you isolating?

Just by working in quarantine, it's definitely strange, but I need to keep busy to stay sane.

This, and the global issues of Climate Change, must be affecting your work and practice, how is it influencing your art?

Because my work focuses on animals, it echoes always indirectly throughout my work. One can't disconnect animals nowadays from concerns as: lost habitats, food industry, extinction of species… all affect climate change issues.

What do you hope for the future?

More common sense and more natural empathy, and freedom for all.

Any shout-outs?

To everyone, stay safe and keep strong!

WIN a copy of ROA : CODEX

LDNGraffiti has one copy of Roa's new book to give away courtesy of Lannoo Publishers.

Just leave a comment below to enter the competition lottery!

You will also be able enter via Twtter, Facebook, and Instagram soon, so go follow LDNGraffiti and look out for #RoaCodexLDNCompetition posts...

– Competition closes 10/06/2020.

Roa: Codex – Lannoo Publishers:

Including texts by RJ Rushmore, Lucy R. Lippard, Johan Braeckman & Gwenny Cooman, Robert R. Williams and Kathy De Nève.

  • Dimensions: 310mm x 260mm
  • Details: 352 pages / Hardback
  • Price: €65 / ISBN: 9789401461672
  • Published: December 2019 by Lannoo Publishers
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