Episode #9 of the course “Street artists you should know”
Roa is a Belgian artist who keeps his identity hidden so that he can “keep his spirit free.” Roa is known worldwide for large black and white murals depicting animals. Roa often combines images of life, death, and life after death using animals local to the area in which he is painting to connect people around the world with these universal and natural realities.
As a child, Roa was interested in becoming an anthropologist, zoologist, or other type of scientist. He would collect skulls and skeletons of animals and illustrate them. His street art paintings often depict the organs of animals, which he claims hold a lot of the symbolism that he loves. Roa is interested in exploring the relationship between animals and humans and how the circle of life and death can be both beautiful and horrific.
Roa began painting street art on buildings and warehouses in his hometown, and he explored the medium more as it gained popularity throughout Europe in the 1990s. Most of Roa’s artwork is painted with spray paint or acrylic paint, and he is known for capturing immense details of movement and animal spirit using only black or grey paint.
While most of Roa’s work has been documented in photographs, films, and reviews, very little is known about him as a person. In 2009 his work became so popular and recognizable that he started to receive invitations and offers for commissions to paint in cities around the world. He has begun to produce studio work and speaks about his process. “Trusting” that he will find the right animal for any location, he often arrives at a wall to paint a mural without any sketches or preplanning. Some of these murals, including a bat he painted in Paris, are over 100 feet long.
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