There is something magnetic and unusual about painter Alfie Rouy that immediate draws you in. He talks slowly and precisely about his work, hesitant to give too much away. His practice is decidedly spiritual and instinctive, he avoids viewing the work of other artists in favour of creating from within. Since graduating in 2021, he has garnered immediate attention with paintings of scenes from dreams and spiraling serpentine creatures rendered with a deliberate flatness.
If you trust in your mind, it all comes out and you find another way of doing things, and that’s how I do everything. Just trust and know and do things in my own way. The most inspiration I get comes from the things I think about.
Through his paintings, Rouy creates a surreal world of free-flowing forms with recognisable yet esoteric elements. His work aims to materialise the fluid energies that flow around and between us, boldly trying to imbue the viewer with a sense of unity, tranquility, and love. The works are therefore best understood through an emotional register and mysteriously positioned to connect spiritually with those who already know.
A selection of Rouy’s pieces are currently on show at Studio West in the group exhibition The Reality in Whytch You Create, which draws it’s title from one of his works. The exhibition brings together the practices of emerging London-based artists who posit new worlds beyond the realms of imagination through creation. I caught up with Rouy to discuss the show and learn more about his unusual practice.
Q: How would you characterise this exhibition?
A: I would say it’s mystical in a way, isn’t it? It has that feeling. Everyone individually has their own definitive style but there is an overarching exploration of other worlds.
Q: What do you consider as the subversive or restorative potentialities of imagining and world-building through creative practice?
A: It performs a part through offering a sense of escapism from reality. I think most stories and most imaginative worlds are exactly that, a mode of separation from what reality is.
In my work, I’m trying to depict reality but in a non-realistic way. It’s very elusive. With the titular painting The Reality in Whytch you Create is Swyphtly Healed by Devotion to Good! there is definite focus on world building. I think this work creates an alternative reality from which people draw stories. However, I am not trying to tell suggest a specific narrative or story though with my work, maybe I used to but not anymore. Now, I’m trying to depict something that’s very real in a very unreal way. The works are very simple once you understand them, but I don’t like to tell people what they’re about.
Q: Your practice is very spiritual, I read that the intent of the works is ‘transposing peace, love, wisdom and unity upon the viewer’. How do you explore such mammoth themes and feelings and in what ways can the viewer gage these from the works? Is this something still relevant to what you’re doing now?
A: It is still there as it’s the intention behind the whole practice. Whether it comes through the work or not I don’t know, I’m still trying to figure that out. I have a lot to learn through the process in terms of these things coming naturally rather than being forced out. I find that just trusting and knowing it’s gonna happen usually works.
Q: Well, I can tell you, the first image I saw from this show was ‘The Reality in Whytch you Create is Swyphtly Healed by Devotion to Good!’ and I immediately found it emotive. It has a sense of a heavenly, beaming light that’s both triumphant and uplifting whilst calming.
A: The painting you’re referring to came to me in a dream. Not the exact scene but an image of a scythe cutting a leg. Funnily enough, a few months later when I was researching alchemy, I found this account of Hermes cutting off his leg. I’d never seen or heard of it in my life but I had dreamt it.
Q: Did you feel that was a really arresting experience or something more humorous?
A: With the way things have turned out for me, I found it unsurprisingly, but also quite amazing. It’s in the exhibition title, The Reality in Whytch you Create. You create your reality through what you believe therefore everything you experience is a product of what you believe. It means you can believe whatever and that will start to manifest within your life. You can play around with it and change your reality.
Q: Your work is heavily inspired by a huge range of philosophical reading, both contemporary and ancient, unusual, and esoteric – are there any references or things that you’ve been thinking about in relation to your newer works in particular?
A: When I was at university, I was really interested in the philosophy surrounding alchemy, but I haven’t been looking at that so much anymore. Recently, I haven’t really been looking at anything. I try to keep it purely subconscious and coming from me rather than from external sources. I really don’t believe in copying and I don’t have visual references. I see things but I don’t actively go out and look at art. If you trust in your mind, it all comes out and you find another way of doing things, and that’s how I do everything. Just trust and know and do things in my own way. The most inspiration I get comes from the things I think about.
Q: Why are you so specific about not being direct regarding the meanings of your paintings?
A: I think it creates mystery and with mystery comes questioning and with that comes thought. Even if a viewer knows a little bit about what I’m exploring, they will still find their own way of seeing. I want people to try and figure it out.
To my knowledge, I have never seen some of the things I try to paint depicted in such a way. A lot of my current work is about the evolution of the soul, and how everything is connected through inherent oneness. That’s a fundamental thing like love, love and oneness are the same.
Q: You seem to be at a transitional moment in you practice, a moment of flux perhaps. The works on show span a three-year period, and while there is a sense of stylistic consistency, there is also obvious evolution in what you’re doing. Can you talk more about this, is it something you’re actively aware of and aiming to do?
A: It’s something that’s just happening, the new painting on show, Love Is A Basket of Light, is the first one I have made since new year. With it, I have discovered something completely new in terms of both my way of doing things and my thought process.
Another thing that comes into the change is the fact that I’m colourblind, so is my brother. For Christmas my brother’s girlfriend gave us colourblind corrective glasses and it blew my mind a little bit. It changed my whole perspective and I realised I’m seeing something entirely different than everyone else – that’s what I mean about reality, your reality is completely different than mine. With that, I’m discovering new ways of doing things and my form is becoming freer. I think it’s going to develop into something a lot more than what it is now by the end of the year, I can feel it coming.
Alfie Rouy’s work is currently on show at The Reality in Whytch You Create, Studio West in Notting Hill until the 17th of February 2022.
Art writer, curator and public relations specialist, focussed on platforming emerging talent across the visual culture sector. When not walking my dog in rainy East London parks, I can be found on my sofa writing articles for FAD magazine, Bricks Magazine, Art Plugged and Off the Block Magazine. Find me on Instagram @bellabonner