- Urban Nation
- January 28, 2015
My short bio: "I make shit that looks cool". […]
My short bio: "I make shit that looks cool".
Rene Gagnon has dedicated his entire life to the arts. He began drawing daily in a family calendar with his father at age two. Throughout his adolescence he received numerous awards for his work, his highest honor being crowned ‘Most Artistic’’ in his 8th grade yearbook. In the mid eighties, Gagnon became enthralled in the Hip-Hop and graffiti movement that was trickling its way up the east coast from New York City to Massachusetts. Gagnon had found ‘his calling’ in this movement.
“I was born in 1971 and raised in the city of Fall River, Massachusetts, a dusty mill town rich in culture located about 45 minutes south of Boston. I started drawing graffiti on my school book covers and piecing in railway tunnels in the early 80’s after seeing the movies, ”Wild Style” and “Beat Street”. My thirst for creation truly exploded after seeing the graffiti art from the streets of New York City in those movies. The enormity of the works and the care free expression of color displayed a means by which I could gain the attention that every teen is so desperately seeking. This rebellious idea of searching for your identity through the use of markers and spray paint fueled my desire to follow in the footsteps of a graffiti artist.
In 1986 I met a graffiti artist (STER) from the Bronx. STER opened my eyes even more to what it meant to be a true writer. Together we created my tag: SNO. Armed with an alias I started to truly bomb my environment. I was considered to be the most widely recognized graffiti artist/tagger in Southeastern, MA from 1986-1993. I believed I gained this recognition because I always had a thirst for taking aspects of my life to the Nth degree.
I now find myself at a point in life where I am beginning to see through the spray paint haze of my teens. I now realize that an artist’s work should represent their soul. So, through the use of urban media techniques I used as a teenager, a newfound love for creating street art, and my need as a human to create I am attempting to bridge the gap between urban graffiti/street art and contemporary abstract expressionism.
In almost every city graffiti and street art is present in a multitude of forms. Some artists choose the permanency of spray painted tags, throw-ups, and stenciled imagery, while others opt for the immediacy and aging characteristics of stickers and paste ups. Often times, these artists’ of the street will battle with each other for visibility on the same surfaces. Over time, the multiple transformations of these surfaces reveal an abstract maze of color and composition that I see as an opportunity. The opportunity to create something much greater than what meets the eye.
My vision is to recreate this battle between graffiti and street artists’ in my studio work. By mixing my past graffiti experience with the street art pieces I do today, I am able to fuel my attack on the canvas. As feelings are evoked from the written words and the often emotionally charged imagery I leave on the streets a physical manifestation builds to a point of overflow. Ultimately unleashing itself in a furor of uninhibited energy, where time and place become nonexistent. It is in this vitality that my artistic soul reveals itself and dances its way into a flurry of whirling paint and exploding spray paint cans.
I believe this melting of the graffiti/street artist in me with the abstract expressionist produces an original take on two major art forms. I have coined this amalgamation ‘Post-Graffiti Abstract Expressionism’ and it serves as the backbone to my work.”
When the popularity of the graffiti movement diminished and the penalties became too high for a young adult, Gagnon immersed himself into his education. He attended the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston, MA, where he earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts. Gagnon worked as a successful freelance illustrator and designer for a few years before realizing that taking orders from clients was something he was not capable of. With the loss of the freelance income Gagnon began teaching courses at a local college. That rewarding experience lead him to accept a teaching position at a local high school where he has worked for 15 years teaching a Visual Design Program.
Gagnon states, ”I’ve painted my whole life, never once has a painting thanked me with tears in it’s eyes, for making them what they are today.
I have always been considered a creative individual, but my first real devotion to the arts revealed itself during the mid-eighties when my thirst for creation exploded after seeing graffiti art emanate from the streets of New York City. The enormity of the works and the care free expression of color displayed a means by which I could gain the attention that every teen is so desperately seeking. This rebellious idea of searching for your identity through the use of markers and spray paint fueled my desire to follow in the footsteps of a graffiti artist. Over two decades later, I find myself back where I began.
For years, being conscious of others opinions and marketability, I thought I had to change myself and the way I painted. Most individuals I encountered despised everything graffiti art represented; criminal behavior, destruction of property, etc.. With fear of this stereotype I began to create works that did not express my true self.
Now, I find myself at a point in life where I am beginning to see through the spray paint haze. I now realize that an artist's work should represent their soul. So, through the use of urban media techniques mastered as a teenager, I am attempting to bridge the gap between graffiti art and contemporary abstract expressionism.
Each work exhibits a personal journey into my thoughts represented by tagging script seen throughout the many layers of the painting. Ideas, personal beliefs, current affairs, meanings of life, memories, and original poetry are just a handful of inspiration sources that reveal themselves in the script. I intend to reveal the layers of time a surface goes through and the relentless struggle that ensues on these surfaces, between artists' and property owners. Through time, the multiple transformations of the surface reveal an abstract maze of value and composition that I see as an opportunity to construct a reality that exceeds our own structured reality."