Introducing the Gold Standard in Creativity
When I first saw Rae Martini’s 24 Carat Dirt video I got fired up about his art and not just because in the clip he’s spraying gasoline on a canvas engulfed in flames.
Before young artists were sharing their work with each other and the world over the internet, Rae Martini was a talented kid working the complex lines of wildstyle-inspired graffitti on the streets and trains of his native Milan. From Writer to international artist and Wescactivist, Rae’s more than 20 year path as an artist is captured in the book and video 24 Carat Dirt released earlier this year. Sophisticated, but gritty, Rae’s current work uses a layered style to combine traces of the past with shapes of a developing present into finished pieces with a visual and textural complexity that evokes the eroded city walls which inspire him.
All of this is why Rae is so interesting and the kind of guy you want to know more about. He’s a trailblazer in the true sense of the word since his process is both unique and in constant progression. His approach includes researching, building, and destroying, then rebuilding in a process were aesthetic meaning evolves. Through this evolution he’s burned a singular path that leads from spray can to paintbrush and fire and leaves us wanting to know what will come next.
When and how did you discover your passion for graffiti art?
I discovered my passion for Writing in the late 80s, watchin’ the beautiful pieces painted in my neighborhood by those writers that I consider my mentors.
I used to go around my blocks as a teenage skater and those intricate stylish big wild pieces I used to see around captured my attention and my heart forever.
When you were starting out what were some of the characteristics of graffiti writing in Italy as compared to the rest of the world?
Well, for sure when I started painting pieces in Milan, my inspiration was absolutely the original New York City wildstyle that use to run on the subway cars. So, I can proudly say that me and my crew were in a New York State of mind and style. It wasn’t just writing, it was, and still is, a culture and lifestyle to me.
Some of the older writers of my crew took some trips to NY and made some hooks there, so I was lucky to see some masterpieces of underground Writing culture-related publications, such as I.G.Times/T.I.G.H.T (The International Get Hipped Times) created by Phase 2 and Schmiddlap. Ever since the 80s that was the bible for us. There was no internet in those days and we were too young to travel, so we had no terms of comparison with the “external world.” I was stuck in my neighborhood for years painting and every picture of a NY piece was like gold to me, inspiration, energy.
The scene in my city was small, just as it was in the whole country. It was growing, but at the same time I must say that some of the writers who were around me were a true gift of god. As some the most talented writers I ever met, they were able to do crazy styles from nothing, putting soul in every piece, the same soul that was running on NYC subway cars and with me and my friends … Yes, I put soul in every line, like the NY masters showed us from afar. There was the collective consciousness of being part of something great, of a powerful underground cultural movement.
You started out as an “illegal” artist. Has that guerrilla kind of approach influenced the way you work today?
Sure it did, every experience I had in the past in the streets and yards made me the person I am now and when I paint that obviously pops up. Painting trains took me to some crazy places and raised me up as an adrenaline and style addict. All those experiences are part of me and of what I paint, conceptually and aesthetically.
Painting trains was an amazing part of my life so it has its position in space-time, in the current period of my life I express myself with a language closer to abstract art.
What puts you in a creative mindset?
A worn down wall can be my inspiration for weeks…
Can you tell us anything about your upcoming projects?
I released my monograph, 24 carat dirt, focused on my early production on paper, streets and trains and early studies on canvas, with a small closing chapter about my recent production. I wanted to show the seeds of my actual work, to deeply read my creative path throughout the years. My upcoming projects are to keep on creating new paintings and drawings, can’t stop won’t stop.