Where form meets function

Continuing our coverage of Converse’s ongoing #SneakersClash initiative, we sit down with artists Remi/Rough and System to learn more about what attracts them to the medium and their involvement with the project.

Earlier this season, Converse UK launched #SneakersClash, kicking off a series of vibrant color installations across London. The Wall of Clash brought together local street artists on two huge walls of The Old Vinyl Factory, former home of EMI in Hayes, London. Having been dull and derelict for years, the artists brought life back into the abandoned space with colorful, contrasting masterpieces. Among these artists, Remi/Rough and System applied their unique style to the wall live in front of hundreds of fans. Take a look below to learn how they approached the project and check out the “Tie Dye” footwear collection that was inspired by the #SneakerClash project, which was released last week.

What is the relationship between your paintings and their location? Do you design the painting first or is it site-specific?

RR: It all depends for me… The relationship is a direct reference to each other. I like to differentiate the scale but maintain the same feeling. Large-scale works should have the same dynamic and sense of detail that my smaller canvas pieces have. The location can completely change the tone of a painting. The environment is very important to all public art. I usually have a semblance of an idea for public murals. If it’s commissioned artwork it’s nearly always pre-designed to a high level, but for work for myself sometimes it’s a lot looser.

S: For me the paintings are more important than the locations. The walls are canvas waiting to be painted. Every now and then you get a project that has to take into consideration the surroundings or its history. If you’re lucky, you get to visit the wall first so you design to fit the shape of the space.

Otherwise you have to be ready to adapt. Uneven walls, bad surface or surprise pipes where you weren’t expecting them to be have to be integrated or hidden. My first sketches for the Vinyl Factory were on a layout based on online photographs and scaled from aerial photography. When we got to the wall I was surprised how many pipes and lights were jutting out. The biggest shock was how big the walls were.

What is it that attracts you to the medium of street art?

RR: I love the fact that the public can enjoy and interact with outdoor works. I love that it’s free too! Some people simply cannot afford to pay the extortionate museum entry fees and public murals can be enjoyed for absolutely nothing.

S: The challenge of painting on unusual surfaces. Seeing artwork out of its expected confines. The scale of it compared to my illustration work and most importantly the speed in which you can paint with spray paint. With aerosol you can paint quicker, covering bigger surfaces and then go into greater detail with a change of a nozzle. I started out as a graffiti writer and over time moved over into adapting my illustration work, but I still like to keep that graffiti mentality and try to paint quickly. I don’t even mind it’s ephemeral nature – making the importance be the act of creating itself.

What are the main inspirations behind your work?

RR: So many different things…architecture, color, graphics, environment. I also am very inspired by the Constructivists and Vorticism. Abstraction and dynamics are key in all my work as is tension and balance.

S: My inspirations change from project to project, I can’t really stick to the same theme. But I have always been inspired by illustration and comic artists and that seems to be an influence I can’t shake, which is evident when I get to outlining my characters. When I was part of the graffiti crew Ikonoklast Movement I was inspired by the work of H.R. Giger trying to adapt aerosol to match his airbrush technique. Studying his work taught me to freestyle as I painted and adapt to marks and lines as they were created. Lately, I’ve been influenced by Asian art and Japanese calligraphy which is teaching me to be looser with my work.

What inspired your paintings for the #SneakersClash project?

RR: Myself and System really researched the project and found lots of vintage imagery from when the EMI Factory was still in use. So we referenced those images and used a grid of diamonds which represented the old vinyl records that were produced there for so many years. We wanted to stay as true to the era as we possibly could, thus all the figures on our mural have that 1950s look.

S: The Old Vinyl Factory has great history. The factory started life manufacturing Gramophones. So the main character has a Gramophone megaphone, calling out the color to attack the walls. They later produced munitions during the war but it’s when they went back to producing records, its real life began as EMI records. The layout is based on record sleeves. I wanted a simple old-school illustration style to clash with Rough’s modernist abstract style.

How significant was your use of color on The Old Vinyl Factory?

RR: The color was everything to be honest. We wanted this wall to stand out as much as humanly possible so it had to be bright and loud. Part of the charm of painting a place like that is it’s naturally washed out by the course of time so color brings another new dimension to it.

S: The Wall of Clash was all about bringing color to a grey world. The colorful history of the building had to be celebrated with an explosion of color, making it stand out from its grey, lifeless concrete surroundings.

What does bringing color to a grey world mean to you?

RR: It means people can have momentary lapses of boredom and flashes of innovation and inspiration. Children thrive on color, adults need it whether they think they do or not.

S: The greatest thing about graffiti writers, aerosol painters and street artists is that they bring color into the dull grey lifeless concrete world around us, usually built with budgets in mind instead of the people that have to inhabit it. The vibrant colors are a reminder of human creativity and imagination. A calling card to remind us that people are more important than property.

Inspired by the #SneakersClash project, Converse presents the Chuck Taylor All Star Tie-Dye Sneaker Collection. The Chuck Taylor All Star Tie-Dye collection celebrates color clashing to the fullest, showcasing a vibrant explosion of marbleized “inks” in high top and low top OX silhouettes. Dark base colours are infused with bright hues for even more visual impact, perfect for the summer festival season. The sneakers will be available from Schuh, starting April 14.

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