“Something happens when I press the cap and draw the first line of a piece. The expectation that takes hold of me is so strong that everything else around me ceases to exist.” - Rubin
One of New York’s greatest characteristics is that you’re likely to encounter art on every street. And, sometimes you’ll come across murals that leave you breathless. There’s a high possibility that those paintings are Rubin’s beautiful intricate geometric creations.
A creative life force, Rubin started tagging concrete walls in Gothenburg, Sweden with no art background. He is also a photographer and has played guitar with several bands throughout the years. Incredibly passionate, Rubin is also warm, tells captivating stories of his youth, and makes incredible coffee.
Drinking a cup in his luminous studio, he shared memories of his early days as a graffiti artist, New York, and his transition to a studio environment.
I’m a painter and graffiti artist.
I started with graffiti at a very young age. I was 9 years old when I saw the movie Beatstreets, it’s actually a fictional movie but it resonated. That was also when I started stealing markers and tagging the streets. When you’re at such a young age you don’t really ask yourself why, you just do it.
With graffiti, it’s a love-hate relationship. Being a graffiti artist nowadays is different I stay on the legal side, but as a kid it was not easy... I was called by the police often.
I never planned to make a career of this, I never dreamt of doing this full time. I was happy if I could have this as a hobby, that was enough but if you’re ambitious, one thing leads to another and now here we are.
The past few years I’ve been painting large scale which is always interesting and easiest for me. Working in a studio environment has been completely different. Usually graffiti doesn’t translate very well on a small scale... graffiti belongs on walls you know.
So, I’m not trying to recreate what I do on walls on panels. But what I do spend a lot of time and work on is to kind of streamline everything that I can do. Something very seamless like large scale murals, spray paint, prints, small pieces. I can work across different mediums, different formats and do the same things. It’s taken a lot of work to get to this point where I can move seamlessly.
What is your creative process when beginning a new project
A lot of mental work and processing until I get the right idea and direction for the project. I then usually do a series of quick drawings and sketches. Colors usually comes in late in the process and I try and lay them out really quick without thinking too much.
A panel on average takes a full work week to complete. My panels don’t have a paint base. I make my own wood stains and when they come into contact with the wood, it creates a chemical reaction. The colors aren’t paint, they are a chemical reaction, organic, making each panel truly one of a kind.
I don’t use any stencils or tape or anything of the sort. I always hand paint and everything is free hand.
That also comes from my past as a graffiti artist where it’s important to make a sharp straight line with a spray paint, that’s always going to follow me.
I just finished a mural in Brooklyn and now I’m working on these little trains for a private collection. I find it important to constantly have a challenge and always have a couple of different projects going on.
How do you know when you're finished with a piece
I don't, but I've become pretty good at knowing when it's time to stop painting.
I never dreamt nor thought I would have a studio. I used to work on the kitchen floor but the I couldn’t have all the spray paint at the apartment. I needed my own space. My current space is also the first time I’ve had a huge window and daylight to work with, this has given me a whole set of new opportunities to create.
Describe a real-life situation that inspired you
Moving to New York.
The cityscape still inspires me on a daily basis. It has also made me start looking back and thinking about where I came from, which is kind of ironic but makes perfect sense.
I’ve always loved New York, it’s always felt like home to me! I first came here in 1998 and thereafter, every time I could afford to go on vacation, we always came here - mostly because of the graffiti artists.
It’s still a great place to live if you’re a creative person, it’s still the city of opportunities. Once you discover the city, it’s hard to look back. Especially when you come from a smaller town in Scandinavia where there’s only so much that you can do. New York just messed everything up!
At the same time, New York is still a tough city. There’s a lot of pressure and, sometimes, it’s hard to have that constant drive. Personally, it fits me perfectly, I’ve always been a hard worker and that has been the easy part for me.
If you could be an artist in NY during any era, which would you pick
Dondi during the era of classic New York Graffiti in late 70's, early eighties. FUN Gallery opened in East Village and introduced a lot of the young emerging artists that later became well known artists in the established art world like Basquiat, Keith Haring, FUTURA 2000 etc. I met Futura at the City as Canvas exhibition at Museum of the City of New York last year and he said that it really was just as fun and exciting as everybody imagines it to have been.
I am part of a group show called "Brooklyn Is The Future" at The Vazquez building in Bushwick, NY starting April 17th, 2015.