Roa was invited by Arne Quinze to be part of the North West Walls project. Containers were placed on top of each other on the festival meadow of Werchter, one of Belgium’s biggest music festivals, and were painted by different street artists. Roa explains which ideas he had in mind while painting his containers:
Painting can be quite a private and solitary thing, not only in what you paint but it is also something you usually do by yourself.
Do you enjoy that?
When painting I’m in a certain ‘zone’ and it doesn’t feel so alone. Creating something is a beautiful practice and I don’t consider it as a solitary thing, It’s on myself to complete a wall and organise the deadlines, but the spirit is never lonely. Besides that, painting brings me around the world and makes me meet new people and that I enjoy a lot.
Is it hard for you to share your thoughts and feelings to the public or have other people put meaning on what you paint?
When a wall is finished, it gets meaning by its environment. People have their own ideas and interpretations, which is great. There was a personal idea behind every depiction, but as it’s made public, people add their ideas to it.
Usually you adapt your work to the environment, the country and culture where you’re painting. Could you talk about the ideas you had in mind when creating your installation here at North West Walls?
Mostly I paint the native animals of the country I’m in and I try to relate to the spirit and the energy of the place. Here at NWW the context is different: the structure is made on purpose and the surrounding is a festival meadow. That is the opposite situation of where I mostly get started and that inspires me.
Therefore I did approach this project very differently than I usually do. Looking at this massive container sculpture, which is a 3D freestanding installation, on a field that, only a few times a year becomes crowded by thousands of people, is something estranging.
Thinking about this situation and the given element of the containers, my thoughts were directly connected to freight and legal and illegal animal trafficking of exotic animals: a questionable practice.
Illegal trafficking is an on going crime and we all know to what it can lead. In the context of legal trafficking I was thinking about how the colonies exported exotic animals in poor conditions to show in Victorian zoos. But also about the ironic repercussions of nowadays zoos: how they export animals for breeding programs and how some species only exist in captivity anymore. A paradox.
So for NWW I got the idea to use the containers as cages and instead of using native animals, it became a pile of exotic animals.
You like to push borders. Not only by travelling, but also in your work. Could you tell us which borders you still want to cross?
Maybe the borders of categorisation. Pushing it high, literally as a painter with murals, brought me together with some other painters in this wave of Urban Muralism. My hopes are that I will get more sitespecific projects going on, that I might produce more sculptural work in nature and that I get to work longer on each project. Instead of creating a mural in 5 days, it would be nice to double the time and get more out of it. By travelling I also got to know very interesting places and communities where I want to start projects. Non-commercial projects, for example in the middle of the outback, where I can work with the local people.
Since North West Walls happens as a part of one of Belgium’s biggest music festivals, let’s talk some music too.
Do you listen to music while painting?
Yes, music is always playing when I’m painting.
Are you aware of the sounds in the environment while you’re painting?
Music helps bringing me in that specific ‘zone’ to focus on my process. But because I don’t want to eliminate the energy of the environment either, I listen from portable speakers instead of headphones.
Through travelling, have you discovered new music?
I got to know a lot of rap and hiphop from around the world: in Portuguese, African, Asian. And besides that, I discovered more traditional music of the countries I paint at, for example Cumbia.
See more pictures of Roa's work and the full report of the project on the fb-page of North West Walls.