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Robyn Ward: An examination of destruction and society’s systematic breakdown

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For self-taught artist Robyn Ward, his journey into art began when he discovered graffiti. He spent much of his teenage years’ skateboarding, drawing and painting. Originally from Ireland, he now lives and works from Mexico City and exhibits internationally.

He developed his signature aesthetic through years of travelling and collaboration with art collectives across Europe and Asia.

Robyn Ward

I like to paint bodies of work around particular topics, and part of my creative process is deep-diving into the research on this theme.

Robyn Ward

During his voyage of artistic duty, Ward was producing works under various aliases. Until 2016, he chose to step away from the mystique of anonymity to create under his real name. As interest grew around his identity, breaking his anonymity became a talking point for the media.

Ward takes inspiration from Bacon, Bosch and Banksy merged with the insight of his surroundings’ to reveal an authentic introspective across infinite mediums.

His subject matters deviate from personal reflections to social-political climates. He also has a distinct approach to producing paintings. Composing them by series, and each series is conceived and created in numerous studios worldwide.

Ward’s work is a fusion of graffiti and fragmented imperfections. Occasionally revealing glimpses of figures beautifully accentuated by dripping paint, making them exciting to decipher due to their complex nature. A seductive narrative that manifests in an elusive way will immerse you in a gratifying experience of contemplation.

Art Plugged managed to speak with Robyn about his creative process, work and more ahead of his new exhibition ‘Fucked at Birth’. That explores destruction, violence, and society’s systematic breakdown. This new set of paintings reveals a powerful narrative examining Ward’s childhood, growing up during the conflict in Belfast, Northern Ireland and is a continuation of Ward’s acclaimed series ‘Plastic Nation’.

Fucked at Birth will start touring in Mexico City 1st October – 31st November 2021 at Robyn Ward Studio, followed by New York, London, Los Angeles and São Paulo.

Q: How did you get started on your artistic journey, and what have been your most memorable moments so far? 

A: I started painting around 14, my love for skating and art came together. I spent my early teens skating, drawing, painting. I used to buy spray cans from the auto shop and lay “pieces” down on a few walls in Belfast; these pieces are all far from memorable, though, haha… Poor walls!

Robyn Creative Process
Q: Can you tell us about your creative process? 

A: It’s very thought out; my new series Fucked At Birth was in the planning stage for three years before I started laying paint down. Then another two years of actual paint time. I like to start with many loose sketches then develop the ideas further, often parking a particular piece for a few months and coming back to revisit it.

Riot Season
Q: What are you trying to achieve with your work? 

A: It’s very thought out; my new series Fucked At Birth was in the planning stage for three years before I started laying paint down. Then another two years of actual paint time. I like to start with many loose sketches then develop the ideas further, often parking a particular piece for a few months and coming back to revisit it.

This is the same reason I tend to move my studios so much. The subliminal inspiration you get being in a new city, with new smells, sounds, colours etc., on your daily commute to the studio triggers your brain differently. My studios are also quite chaotic. I can be working on 15-20 pieces at a time—some from 3 years ago, some from last week.

I use many loose wet brush strokes on my canvases, so I tend to jump from piece to piece while one dries before putting another layer on top. I also get massive blocks and sometimes cant paint a piece for months at a time. It can just sit in my studio looking at me. At times, this can be an issue and a factor in why there are many pieces in my studio!

Wandering mind
Q: What are you trying to achieve with your work? 

A: I try to paint around topics that are close to me, creating something that draws the viewer in and has an underlying meaning. My more natural style of work tends to be very layered, with each layer depicting a moment from my own life, in effect like screenshots laid on top of each other.

Q: Your work has a running theme that critiques the social and economic-political landscape. Can you tell us the inspiration behind this?

A: I like to paint bodies of work around particular topics, and part of my creative process is deep-diving into the research on this theme.

This is also a part of the process that I enjoy. In the later years, this has tended to be around the social and economic-political landscape. I don’t see this changing any time soon, but who knows, I could wake up tomorrow and want to paint apples! And if I do, there will be a lot of apples being painted.

The King That Was
Q: Covid put the art world on pause for a while. Did it influence your practice in any way?

A: Yeah, COVID has been painful for most industries; my work hasn’t been influenced by it. I was meant to start touring ‘Fucked At Birth’ in May 2020. With the world going on pause, it gave me time to dive back into my body of work and develop it even further than I had previously thought possible.

Q: Your new exhibition ‘Fucked at Birth’ features your latest body of work. Do you consider this your lockdown project?

A: I worked on this further during the lockdown, but I worked on the series for five years! My lockdown project was more working on myself and getting my health and fitness back in place.

I got hit by a car in 2017, and with doing long studio hours,​ I struggled to get back to full fitness, so I spent the last part of lockdown surfing 3-4 hours in the morning and doing studio hours in the afternoon and evenings.

Eternal Dreaming
Q: Throughout the years, you have created work under a pseudonym. But in 2017, you decided to break your anonymity. Can you tell us why you chose to work anonymously and why you switched to create under your real name?

A: I actually came out under my own name in 2016; it was a strange decision. One which I toyed with for quite a while. I liked creating art under different names and collectives as it took the pressure away from my work being directly judged.

It’s part of the development process, but when your real name is not attached to them, it makes it a lot easier to live with. In my early 30’s, I gained more confidence in this aspect of my work and didn’t have the same issues/complications holding me back from painting under my name. Painting is very personal to me, so putting my name on work was a big step in opening up and leaving me vulnerable to criticism!

Q: What next for you as an artist? 

A: I have been working on some NFT’s, which will be coming out in mid-September. Pretty excited to venture into that space and explore it more. I am a big believer in embracing technology and change. So let’s see.

©2021 Robyn Ward

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