01 May In conversation with Ramon Maiden
StolenSpace Gallery is excited to present “Turbo Faith, Ladies Of The Night & Dandy Delinquents” a solo exhibition by the artist Ramon Maiden. Born and raised in Roquetas – the Bronx of Barcelona, he is inspired by those from the neighbourhood. His work includes detailed transformed images that range from Vargas pin-ups, vintage postcards and calendars, holy saints, and religious characters. However, his reasoning for transformation has social, political or religious influence, yet at other times it is solely to reference Maidens own opinions of society drawn from his childhood.
SS: How did you start as an artist? Is there any particular event/artist that influenced your choice?
RM: I began in art by vocation and chance rather than by intention or dedication. Although, I remember drawing since I was little; I never thought this could lead to something more serious to acquire a professional dimension. My training and vocation is related to social work and have little to do with the art world. I refer to it as an accident since anything related to Ramon Maiden as an artist has neither been planned nor deliberate. In fact, no one was more surprised than me by the success and recognition. However, creating has always been a need for me. It was a way to express myself and to relieve tension without having to get anything back. It’s hard to say when it began. As a matter of fact, I have a feeling that it has just started and I still have a long way to go.
I also have distant memories of my childhood already drawing tattoos on historical icons. All my textbooks and school materials were covered in drawings and I still kept some of them. I also used to draw with pens on my own skin. I don’t know why, but since childhood I felt strongly attracted to the tattoo scene. However, at that time, it was something that was not really popular I must say. My training as a social worker, my passion for traveling, my family history and my experience with visual arts are all very diverse and not at all in uniform; this allows me to be very creative. It is impossible to say one name or one person that inspires me, but my mother is my most influential person. My mother is highly creative and ever since I was little, she encouraged me and supported my passion for art.
Of the dead artists, I have a special devotion to Alphonse Mucha and Dalí because all of their art have meaning and special personal stories. I met Dr. Lakra a few years ago. We shared a booth at the Barcelona convention and I also saw him a few times in Denmark and Mexico. His way in understanding the Mexican street tattoo culture is amazing. Nonetheless, his view of art in general has always been a strong influence to me.
SS: You are a self-taught artist. Can you tell us more about you’re self-training and how you chose your style?
RM: I didn’t take any art lesson so I learned everything by myself. All the techniques and medias that I developed are the result of a lot of mistakes.I always try to experiment with different methods and techniques, which is really challenging and rewarding.
SS: How did you develop your great fascination for tattoos? Apart from what you tattoo in your work, do you also tattoo people?
RM: I’ve been involved with the tattoo community for a long time. A lot of my friends are either tattoo artists or involved in artistic tattoos. Because of its meaning and reference, my art has always been well received on the tattoo scene. I have also been fortunate to collaborate with many tattoo artists, studios, conventions, publications and I suppose all of this permeates part of my work.
I perceive the tattoo as a form of artistic expression. Many of the artists I follow not only deal with tattoos, but they are also very talented in other forms of art.
About tattooing, I have been approached about it many times. But, the energy required for tattooing is very different from the one necessary to create in other disciplines. Tattooing requires a full-time commitment, but I don’t rule out taking it up some day. However, I have tattooed some of my friends. Nothing complicated, but just to know how it felt and it was really interesting.
To tattoo, you require a special attitude and commitment to the clients, appointments, and the shop. But, to work as an illustrator grants me so much freedom to work when and where I want. It also allows me to have no creative cliché to draw and paint what really pleases me.
SS: You were born and raised in a working class neighbourhood. How did this affect your life and your artistic choices?
RM: Growing up in an environment where I was taught to appreciate the little things made me the person I am now. Humility has always been one of my most cherished values. Therefore, I always try to incorporate things I do to be imbued with humility. In addition, remembering that to grow we need to appreciate what you have.
SS: You define yourself ‘a dandy delinquent’. Both ideas are very romantic ones. Can you explain more?
RM:When I speak of the delinquent concept, I do not necessarily mean those who do bad things, like thieves or offenders in general. The dandy delinquents are outsiders who live in society, but are very critical of it. The ones who try hard to change the establishment and fight about all the injustices. A “dandy delinquent” is a revolutionary with style.
I feel fortunate that people appreciate my art and would like to take this gift to change some small things. Small changes are the key to big movements.
SS: Do you listen to music while you draw? Can you tell us about the connection to ‘Iron Maiden’ did they inspire your artist name?
RM: When I was a teenager, I was a big fan of Iron Maiden. That’s why my friends used to call me Maiden in high School. It’s like a tribute to my adolescence. Now, I listen to all different kinds of music. Ranging from old classic rock n’ roll, ragtime, swing, the 80’s new wave music, and also some electronic bands. I’m very eclectic.
SS: The process of painting on wood looks quite difficult and delicate. How long does it take to paint one of your famous hands? Can you tell us more about the whole process?
RM: I used to work with paper or clean surfaces. It took me awhile to develop the technique to draw and illustrate on wood since it is not a smooth surface. It has life, texture, pores, and veins. However, work on wood was successfully due to the result of many mistakes. It is necessary to be very stubborn and persistent to succeed in media changes and prove to do something that many others have not done.
The process is long and the work begins with a freehand using pencil. I usually do a sketch on paper before, but I mostly work with pencil straight on the hand. The second step is to outline, in which I use permanent markers. Lastly, is shading, in which I use micron markers or soft pencils. Applying the varnish is kind of delicate. If you press too much there’s the risk of moving the paint and ruining the piece. Initially, making a hand took me a long time, sometimes too much. But, by developing technique and accuracy has allowed me to be much faster. I can make 2 a day.
SS: On your website the section ‘Artworks from Hell’ especially caught our attention. We are curious to know more about this section, its name and why you mention hell.
RM: In my work, I often represent the dispute between heaven and hell. I really think that there is no need to understand heaven as the prize for what we have done while living. Interestingly, many people I find interesting have earned a place in hell (according to the church). So, I’m sure there are more people I admire in hell than in heaven.
SS: You travelled a lot. Is there a place that you like and influences you more than others? Do you have a favourite one? Do the different places you visit affect your work? In what way?
RM: I describe myself as a ‘Wanderlust King’ because one of my many passions is traveling. I’m a restless ass, so I couldn’t exist without moving around. Knowing, understanding and exploring the world are one of the best ways to grow as a person and artist. When I am traveling, I collect all of my images – virtual or physical – and afterwards, I am able to use them in my creations. There’s nothing more nourishing and inspiring than mixing with other cultures, artists, and places. Luckily, my job allows me to travel regularly and I try to go out of Spain at least twice a month. I have friends all around the world and I always find some excuse to visit them. I regularly visit NYC, London, Berlin and Copenhagen. I have my places such as bookshops, museums, markets, libraries, cafés and restaurants there. The scenery and material I find there provide inspiration for new ideas.
SS: Your interest in history, ancient religions and politics is clear through the vintage posters, postcards and images you tattoo. Can you explain why you use them and what affect you want to achieve? What is the message you want to convey?
RM: I like controversy and in almost all of my pieces, I try to express and transmit some sort of political or social message. So in many of my pieces you can see references to historical moments, religion, and social injustice, but you can also see beautiful filigrees, Victorian patterns and intricate gothic buildings.
The balance between the aesthetic result and the message is what I want to show. The message could be really diverse, but it’s always related to the way I see social justice.
SS: You state: “With ‘Turbo Faith, Ladies Of The Night And Dandy Delinquents’ I want to show the beautiful side of my childhood ‘Robin Hoods’. The elegance of those who were forgotten.” The last sentence is fascinating. Can you explain it and tell us more about your show at StolenSpace Gallery?
RM: At my show at the Stolen Space Gallery, I wanted to give a voice to all the people that have always been concerned to make things right without worrying about what other people thought of them and without seeking any recognition, follow any religion, and creed. People like my grandmother.
SS: On your website you say that you like to shake consciences. What is your aim of doing that and how you do it?
RM: I understand art as a vehicle to express my vision of the world. I feel somewhat privileged and I want to use these privileges to try to shake some consciences and in addition, change some minds.
SS: Any plans for the future you can share with us?
RM: I don’t have any long-term plans. My intention is to continue working, collaborate with other artists and to grow both as an artist and person.