Last night, Robi Walters gave Usain Bolt a farewell gift as he prepared to leave the UK, following his last ever race at World Champions.
During the 2012 Olympics in London, Robi Walters created a collage in homage to his idol, Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt. The piece stands 6ft tall, featuring the silhouette of Bolt in his iconic celebratory pose. With the help from his friend and studio hand Jack Mann, the piece took 6 weeks to finalise. Over the past 5 years, ’Bolt’ traveled to each of the last 6 Soho studios that Robi has worked in.
Finally, Robi had the chance to meet Bolt thanks to friend and nightclub owner Ryan Bish. The pair met at glamorous nightclub Cirque le Soir in Soho, where Robi had the collage waiting. Upon seeing it, after a few photos and a mention to Bolt's 4.5m followers on Snapchat, Usain Bolt thanked Robi Walters and assured him that he was looking forward to taking it back with him to his home in Jamaica.
So many interesting people visit us at Studio365, so many that it became a bit of a running joke that we would have to somehow visually keep track of them all. It was Robi’s idea to start capturing every visitor with a Polaroid camera; sticking the growing collection of photos to the ceiling.
The Polaroid wall displays a great deal of people who have walked through the doors here in Soho over the past few months. The photos prove to demonstrate a warm sense of community that we are lucky enough to have in the studio by displaying each person who has come in over the past few months, as well as capturing every member of the team.
Have a look at a few here:
Aesthetica Magazine is a British art and culture magazine. Founded in 2002, the magazine covers photography, visual art, music, film, and theatre.
Robi was given the opportunity to advertise his work as part of their print and online artists directory, alongside an online interview with him under the title ‘Transformative Materiality’.
In the interview, Robi discusses his processes and the inspiration behind his work. He talks about transformation, meditation, and reflection: " In order to transform, you have to start your journey by knowing who and where you are. I start every morning by meditating and that is my first transformation of the day, it enables me to become centered, calm and focused. I think that is reflected in my work. The work that I make is mostly made out of material that people have thrown away."
Robi describes his changing techniques, admitting "I used to do everything by myself, which is sourcing the material, spraying it, cutting it, finding raw materials such as the wood, the glue etc and then the process of actually creating the work itself... [it's] been a huge journey of letting go."
The discussion definitely gives an honest and intimate look into Robi as an artist and his creative journey.
The interview is available to read on Aesthetica's website or here.
London-based artist Robi Walters will be exhibiting and creating works at UNFOLD, Church St, Central London, during Frieze week in October 2017.
Robi will offer a glimpse into his creative processes and vision, providing the opportunity to engage with an art piece in a comfortable setting. UNFOLD encourages its visitors to consider the installment as a meditative experience, which is something Robi’s work looks into through meditational practice, focus on colour and relationships with chakras.
The mesmerising collage pieces Robi produces focus on sacred geometry and spirituality, inspired by the thousand-petalled lotus flower. The themes explored in his works relate to the UNFOLD philosophy of immersive, peaceful spaces to engage in art and experience processes of creation.
Robi’s works explore the concept of art in a future city through themes of recycling and reusing found objects from the streets of Soho. Robi’s work subtly challenges the changing face of modernity; concerning itself on how people communicate using technology more frequently and how this transforms the way beauty is viewed and interacted with.
Robi will be creating artwork for the show in a studio space, opening up a dialogue to explain and display his methods from spraying recycled card, cutting into petals and the technique of sticking individual petals together to create a rich and vibrant story.
Robi started off his career in design. Graduating from Surrey Institute University in 1996, Robi soon embarked on an internship he describes as ‘invaluable’ with graphic designer Swifty who, among many other projects, is known for Talkin’ Loud, Mo’ Wax and Straight No Chaser.
Robi went on to work independently on various albums, creating record sleeve artworks for artists such as Bebel Gilberto, Tanto Tempo and Innerzone Orchestra, to name a few. Robi discussed his original style and processes as similar to illustration: “I like drawing things. I was maybe considered more of an illustrator at the time… a lot of my graphic design was hands-on and handmade.”
An old friend and DJ Gilles Peterson approached Robi to do the artwork for Brownswood recordings in 2006. Robi has since illustrated and designed the covers for twelve of the Brownswood Bubblers albums. Talking about the inspiration for the album’s front cover, he said: “I like that the cover has stayed the same this whole time. I drew my friend’s place in New York from memory… just because I liked it.”
“I love the philosophy behind Bubblers; finding things that aren't necessarily big or in the mainstream. I like that it supports young people and gives people opportunity to promote and share their music.”
In 2010 Robi decided to launch his career as a full-time artist, focusing on his collage pieces and a few Breaking Records. It’s no secret he still draws; he exhibited a show of his graphic drawings in 2010 at the Hospital Club and another show the following year ‘Exposure’ in Little Portland Street.
Since then, Robi has gone on to exhibit as an artist predominantly with his large and colourful collage pieces. However, drawing is something that is still practiced in Studio365 frequently; through the animated series ‘Pointless Conversations’ and typefaces for Robi’s website.
The twelfth Brownswood Bubblers album is out now, available in stores and online.
Studio 365 is now looking more vibrant than ever. Following a successful show at West Contemporary gallery, the works returned to Soho and Robi decided to focus the main space of the studio on his collage pieces.
The new layout gives the studio a sense of unity; each piece carefully curated to fit the space. The stairwell is now adorned with zany, colourful portraits of friends and family, bringing the entranceway life .
The studio always seems to capture the attention of anyone who enters. We have been lucky enough to have such a diverse and fascinating group of people come through the doors at Studio 365. It was Robi’s idea to start documenting these encounters by photographing every friend, guest and team member that enters the studio.
On the 27th May, Studio 365 opened it’s doors once again to friends and family, for a rooftop party to welcome in the summer. Parties are something we love to host, as they are a great opportunity to say thanks, not only to team365 for all their passionate hard work and positive energy, but also to the support and zeal from the great number of friends and visitors to the studio.The rooftop was lit with candles and fairy lights, complete with great music, a face painting station, and Jamaican food prepared by Robi’s mum.
Pedro Lima, who’s been a part of the studio team since March, is a brilliantly talented photographer, managed to capture and encapsulate the spirit of the night perfectly.
We would love to host another event soon, and look forward to seeing even more people there. To enquire about upcoming parties, shows and events, feel free to get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
Here are some of our favourite shots of the party…
On Tuesday 11th May, we were joined in the studio by Robi’s friend, professional chef Tom Kerridge to discuss an exciting new collaborative project. Ed Reed, a filmmaker from The Basement, a sportswear fashion community, came in to film the talk; editing together clips to create a visually impressive, yet simplistic video.
In September 2017, Kerridge will be opening his first standalone London restaurant in Knightsbridge. The chef approached Robi to create two large tables inlaid with his collage pieces and design five plates, which will replace the current ‘Rib Room’ at the Jumeirah Carlton Tower.
Robi’s creations are often made out of music flyers, sprayed and then cut into small petals. It was suggested that rather than use these, the collages should use memorable and special menus. Using Instagram and Twitter as a platform to call out for donations, a great number of menus were sent to both Tom Kerridge and Robi Walters.
The menus vary from fine dining in Paris, to local Beefeater pub chains; each meaning something to the people who posted them. Overwhelmed with some of the stories received alongside the donated menus, Robi suggested a filmed discussion in the studio.
Robi, who’s previously illustrated for several musicians and DJs, including Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood Recordings, created and animated a short sequence for the video; sparking the idea of an ongoing series of partially animated ‘pointless conversations’.
The video is now available to view here.
Written by Amber Davies
Search online for ‘Eyeconomy Club’ and you’ll be greeted by a greyscale image of Robi’s work on the homepage. Click through and you’ll find a writeup from when Robi talked about his journey, inspirations and future plans.
Eyeconomy Club is a ‘concept store and editorial platform’ that bases itself on the retailing and promotion of independent eyewear brands from all over the world. The store boasts both an online store and a digital magazine, featuring a range of articles and interviews with eyewear-themed titles and puns such as ‘Eye See…’.
The company approached Robi, asking for an interview with him under the title ‘Entering The Vortex of Success’. Seamus Duff, from the online magazine, joined Robi in his Soho studio to discuss his artistic vision and learn more about his processes, as well as his numerous exciting upcoming projects.
In the interview Robi discusses his love for the current studio location and the influence it has over his work. He discloses “I think Soho is reflective to my art” when referencing the diversity and vibrance the borough has to offer. As well as a cultural influence, Robi describes the environment’s impact on his work saying ‘I’ll be walking down the street and I’ll see a cardboard box, or a crushed can on the road and put it in my bag’.
The discussion definitely gives an honest and intimate look into Robi as an artist and his creative journey. Eyeconomy Club concludes by writing of Robi, ‘With his art now taking the world by storm, letting go of control has never looked so good.’
The interview will be on the website for two weeks, so if you wish to get a look into The Vortex of Success, be sure to read it here.
Written by Amber Davies
About a month ago, Maddox Gallery, who have represented Robi since 2015, approached him with a request for his some of his work to be featured in E4's TV show Made In Chelsea.
The show, a successful BAFTA award-winning structured-reality, now in its thirteenth series, follows the lives of affluent young people in the West London area. The scene was shot in the Mayfair gallery, Maddox for the 8th episode. It features several of Robi's collage pieces currently on display, being discussed by two of the show’s stars.
The opportunity to have work shown in an episode was seen as an exciting possibility. Robi admitted he was pleasantly shocked the scene made the cut, he said: "Maddox gallery asked if I wanted my work to be featured in Made in Chelsea- it was a nice surprise to see that my work actually made the show".
To watch the show and spy Robi's creations, follow the link here.
Written by Amber Davies
Engaging with children has been a recurring objective for Robi Walters’s art practice, aiming to encourage an unrestricted and liberated art production from fresh and young minds. In October of this year, as part of his yearly collaboration with the 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair, Robi took groups of school children to the shows, arranging private tours, and hosting drawing workshops for them.
After moving to a new studio in Soho, Robi has been able to use the space as a joint gallery and working space, allowing opportunities for solo shows, such as the recent I Project You. By hosting the exhibition in his own space, Robi can have a more precise oversight on the exhibition’s contents yet also, and importantly, the events which accompany it. With this freedom and opportunity, Robi has been able to engrain his love of community work and involving children with his art practice.
Adhering to Robi’s aspirations to interact with children in the space, the Wardour Mews studio hosted three exciting workshops last week for different age groups of primary school children. To kick off the workshops, Robi encouraged a meditation session in order to relax and calm the group, aiming to make them more responsive to the tasks ahead. With the installation of the I Project You exhibition still in place, the children were able to take a look at the works by the artist. From this, the group were able to grasp that the portraits did not necessarily look identical to the people they were representing; instead, there were alternate features of the image which contributed to the representation and dialogue between the image and the person represented, notably colour.
Each child was next assigned a partner and given the challenge to draw the other in profile. This taps into a key theme of Robi’s most recent exhibition, exploring understandings of identity in the context, or through the eyes, of other people. Considering colour again, the children next painted the portraits they felt represented their partner’s personality, encouraging a new and exciting understanding of colour for the children.
The finished results from the workshop were extremely successful, with portraits produced that were unrestricted, refreshing, colourful, and free. The workshop was definitely a cooperation that deserves to be repeated and reworked.
Written by Hannah Clynch
“To acknowledge that I am a people pleaser gives me the freedom to not please people”
Robi Walters on his studio, dyslexia, and his dedication to the daily practice of his 365: Every Day Counts project.
“If you have an idea, if you have a thought, and it’s something that you want to do, just start it because you never know where it’s going to go”
In Robi Walter’s parents' garage, Wadada was born. Starting as simply an idea and to design and print t-shirts for men, Wadada was since evolved into printing on to different textile surfaces. It isn’t a static concept or process; it is always changing.
The initial images used for the project began with musicians, from Stevie Wonder to Lee Perry. Robi took the images, transformed them into a style more align and familiar with his own, and printed them on t-shirts. The images printed incorporate a fusion of influences and culture; often working with West Indian aesthetic influences, which in turn was channelled through African culture, synthesized with English culture. Although Robi was born and raised in London, his half-Jamaican heritage transpires through in the cultural collaborations explored in Wadada.
Written by Hannah Clynch
In 2010, the advice of friend and mentor Chris Ofili prompted a challenge to Robi Walters: “draw every day”. Of course, for an aspiring artist wanting to execute big pieces of art, the idea of creating one-off and isolated drawings once a day is not a familiar or perhaps even comfortable practice. Yet, although starting in not a very serious or focused fashion, the artist did as he was instructed. The 365 London Art Project was born.
Painting every day, just before going to bed, became ingrained in the artist’s daily routine. The unrestricted approach encouraged a new a refreshing approach to creation; sometimes the works were minimal, sometimes messy. It becomes a healthy system of creativity. Robi would keep the work even if he did not like it, he would not change it because it would capture the mood of that day.
When the project developed into full swing, the artist would consider how he could make the project more interesting? The works began to include things done in that day. Additionally, a date, a number, and signature would be included.
Rather than simply drawing or painting on paper, the daily works would be rendered on found objects or things Robi had been given. Envelopes, books, cardboard boxes, and found frames transformed themselves into a canvas. This approach not only creates aesthetically exciting objects but also works with their own social history and placing within the project, almost like a time capsule.
Written by Hannah Clynch
I PROJECT YOU features Robi Walters’ new and previously unseen body of work exploring themes of identity, immigration and perception. Inspired by Robi’s dual Caribbean and English heritage, his work is aesthetically inspired by traditional African barber shop paintings. Robi combines a colourful and vibrant colour palette with a naive use of line to create this bold and sharp series of portraits of his close family and friends.
The exhibition focuses on exploring the psychology behind perception of the self and of ‘the other’. Robi uses this body of work to visually explore the projections we place upon ourselves alongside the multiple perceptions and restrictions placed upon us in todays society. I PROJECT YOU encourages conversation and engagement around ideas and notions of self, identity and immigration. Topics which seem particularly apt and prevalent in today’s current climate.
As well as addressing these themes, it’s interesting to note that each portrait in the series has been made out of found and recycled materials. Robi’s continued practice of transforming found materials into canvas for his artwork is a choice made through reflection on his own upbringing and background.
Growing up as a child in foster care, it is a vital part of Robi’s practice to recycle discarded materials and give them a new lease and direction of life. Creating desirable, covetable artworks out of traditionally unwanted materials. In stark contrast, the works themselves are framed in traditional thick, gilded style frames, which further emphasize this juxtaposition between the ‘high’ and ‘low’ cost of materials used.
Robi is also involved with a number of community, college and school based workshops which he counts as an important part of his artistic practice. Working with children and young adults across a variety of different backgrounds from Ofsted struggling public schools to private schools. Robi aims to encourage and inspire children regardless of their background and upbringing. He organizes a range of self-funded presentations and workshops to encourage and motivate young people to pursue their creative outlets and channel them into successful career paths. Robi also works alongside a number of galleries and institutions to invite children to exhibitions and tours they may otherwise not have access to. He has been working with the 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair for the last few years to arrange private tours and drawing workshops with school children, the last workshop taking place most recently in October at Somerset House.
There will be a number of workshops with children as well as a separate workshop for teachers, at his upcoming exhibition, I PROJECT YOU. The notions of identity politics and perception
will be broken down, discussed and explored visually as well as verbally during these workshops.
Robi Walters was recently selected by The Daily Telegraph Amazing 15’ Arts and Culture section, as one of the “15 Top Creatives in the UK” highlighting Robi as one of the most exciting creative talents working in Britain today. Robi won the Arts and Culture category by public vote after being shortlisted in the ‘Creating the Amazing’ initiative.
Written by Lisa Baker