Rich Simmons is a Contemporary Urban Pop Artist from London who has exhibited all over the world. Raising to fame with an iconic piece of street art of Will and Kate before the royal wedding, Rich has gone on to exhibit in some of the biggest galleries in London, Geneva, Tampa, New York and LA. As a self taught artist, Rich has taken his love of different genres of art, from street art, pop art and comic books to pioneer a new fusion style which draws on all of his inspirations.
The use of his bold colour palette, hand drawn and hand cut stencils and reclaimed billboards that have been pulled down from the streets are proving Rich is both an innovator and highly collectable artist. Fans and collectors include Royalty, Celebrities, Musicians and is collected as far as New York, Singapore, Baku, Paris, Dubai, Monaco, Geneva, London and Miami.
Name: Rich Simmons
Birthday: 20th feb
College: didn’t go
How would you define yourself as an artist? Im a stencil artist primarily that works in a contemporary urban pop art style
Why art? How did you get involved with art? Ive always been an artist, its who I am. I was always the art kid in school and I’ve just kept that part of myself alive and found a way to have a career in it. I would have been happy being creative in any form but the winding path I went down led me to street art and gallery exhibitions.
What art do you most identify with? Pop art and street art with an influence from comic books and 50’s imagery.
What does “being creative” mean to you? Being creative is everything to me, its who I am. Whether its making paintings in my art studio, playing instruments at home or cooking something in the kitchen, I am trying to be creative with everything I do. Its a switch I can’t turn off but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
What’s the best advice you ever had about how to be more creative? Theres no such thing as failures, only opportunities to learn and develop. The fear of failure stops a lot of people from experimenting and taking risks but if you eliminate the fear of it then you can be free to express yourself in new ways. If it doesn’t turn out how you imagined, learn from it and try again with a different technique but youre more likely to surprise yourself more often than not.
What are you trying to communicate with your art? I want to make people stop and think, see the world from a different perspective and walk away inspired in some way.
What do you see as the strengths of your pieces, visually or conceptually? I always try and add layers, dimensions and narrative to the work. I want to tell a story with an image and evoke an emotion in the viewer. I’ve tried to take stencils to new places and love pushing the boundaries with whats possible with them.
What themes do you pursue? I have a lot of different ideas I try and present in my work. I don’t stick to just one idea or theme or id get bored very quickly. I want to be free to explore all my ideas and thoughts, whether thats talking about social issues, political or personal.
What inspires you to work? Everything inspires my work. I try and keep an open mind wherever I am and whatever Im doing as you never know when inspiration will hit. I walk around like a puppy, looking around for things to catch my eye, excitedly pointing at things and getting ideas over the most random things.
Book: da vinci code
Movie: batman – dark knight
Quote: Everybody is a Genius. But If You Judge a Fish by Its Ability to Climb a Tree, It Will Live Its Whole Life Believing that It is Stupid. – Einstein
Can we talk a bit about your process at the beginning of a project? How do you conceive of it? How do you build it in your mind before you start? I am always having ideas but it usually takes a lot of daydreaming and thinking to merge them or evolve them to the point of something being worthy of sketching or designing to see if I can take it from an idea to a physical thing I’m happy with. Once the idea is born on paper, I can work on evolving it and working out compositions and layout, colours and stylings. Once I have something I think works on different levels, I will work on the light box and draw out my stencils and then cut them all out. Then its a case of working in order and spray painting the layers until the painting is on canvas. It doesn’t always work that way but this is the main foundation for the creation of a piece.
What Role does the artist have in society? I think artists have a very important role as we have the kind of minds that are able to create something to help others understand or think differently about an issue. Artists question everything and create things that allows others to question things. I don’t want to just make pretty paintings, I want to tell stories and challenge view points and even if some people don’t like it, I’m not doing my job unless I evoke an emotion one way or another.
Do you suffer for your art? Of course, art is an emotionally challenging thing to create. You have to explore an idea from every perspective, consider those who will love it and those who will oppose it. You need to tap into dark places to create beauty and put your heart on the line to be true to the art. From a career aspect too, it takes a lot of time, energy and money to create art and have a career in it and I’ve had to make a lot of sacrifices to pursue this and give it 100% of my time and focus. I’ve lived in warehouses with no heating, no hot water and no shower in order to have a space to create work and I am so happy I had those experiences. Sacrificing having holidays, not getting a car, moving to London to live in a cold warehouse and spending money on paint and canvases instead of other things allowed me to learn my craft, develop as an artist and it paid off because I was stubborn enough to go through those struggles to get opportunities.
What do you think about the art community and market? The art world is a very difficult place. You have incredibly talented people who never get the attention they deserve because they don’t know how to sell themselves and get in with collectors and galleries and then you have people with little to no talent who are fantastic at business and can sell a million dollars of art in their first show. Thats the struggle I face with the art world as I want to find a middle ground and be able to sell my work but also be the best artist I can be and create the work myself. You have to be an artist and a businessman in equal parts and that is a difficult thing to balance. An artist shouldn’t have to sacrifice any integrity or change their ideas to fit a galleries client list or style but in order to be an artist and keep a studio over your head and fresh paint on the shelves, you have to find that balance. Its a difficult thing to find and be comfortable and confident in but the most successful artists are the ones who have found that sweet spot.
Should art be funded? Why? As I said previously, its very difficult to make a career as an artist and balance the business with the creation elements. In order to free an artist to focus solely on creation, free from commercial constraints, funding would be the thing that allows an artist to work freely. It doesn’t work for every artist but some ideas aren’t possible without financial backing to make it a reality. If I want to go and paint a building, I need to think about cherry pickers, paint, assistants, time, resources, promotion and that all adds up very quickly and makes it impossible to do from my own pocket. Its when a council or developer steps in with the funding to do the project that an artist can be free to go and make their idea a reality.
What famous artists have influenced you, and how? Banksy is the obvious one because he opened the door to the media and general public who had always considered street art as a form of graffiti and a crime. Now through Banksy, people can appreciate the artistic integrity and ability that goes into a lot of new artists work. It has also changed the way galleries deal with street art as people can now have successful careers from painting walls and cutting stencils. Shepard fairey is another artist who played a huge role in my development as an artist and seeing how he combined the street art campaigns he did with the gallery shows, the clothing line, the graphic design business and showed me how its possible to run a whole creative production business and not just limit yourself to only one thing. My hero is Leonardo da Vinci and I aspire to have some of the qualities he demonstrated are possible. He was an artistic genius but he used his shared passions for engineering, music, science and math to help develop his creativity and he was as much an inventor as he was a painter.
What other interests do you have outside of art? I love music, I used to play in bands when I was younger and still like to play drums and guitar when I’m stressed and need a different kind of creative release. I love comic books and go to comic cons and love the movies inspired by the comic book world. I enjoy science and spend a lot of time while I cut stencils watching science documentaries and listening to podcasts about space and physics. Food is another passion and if art hadn’t worked out for me I would probably have gone down that route.
You seem to be very aware of the history of works. Where do you see films, photo exhibitions, art perfomances today? I like to learn and I try and educate myself about artists that came before me to make a guess of the direction the art world could go in the future. Technology is changing the game in a massive way and that is going to have a huge impact on how art is created, exhibited and sold moving forwards. I am excited to see what new ways films, art and performances will be shaped by new technologies in the future.
How would your life change if you were no longer allowed to create art? I wouldn’t change my life too much at all, I would just switch my creativity from one thing to another. art is just one way of expressing my creativity but if I couldn’t do that anymore then I would look into writing, food, music, film, acting, web design etc etc. I don’t let my career define me as a person so id be happy with whatever career I had.
some short questions now…
Colours: matte black, gloss black, electric blue, mint, hot pink. Depends on if its for art, electronics, clothing, etc.
Textures: canvas, whether thats for a painting or on the converse shoes I’m wearing. Glass, steel, concrete. I love industrial textures.
Describe your style: “Define yourself”… converse, ripped jeans, band t-shirt, messy spikey hair, tattoos. I’m a bit punk rock, a bit skater kid, a bit artist.
Define your art: its a bit street art, a bit pop art, a bit comic book, a bit 50s, a bit punk rock.
Art Fairs: not my thing but I want to check out Miami art fair in the near future.
Museums: Tate modern, natural history museum, science museum
Cities: London, New York, Tokyo.
Travels: america and Asia are my go to places when I’m not in London. Love New York and LA, want to go to Miami and Chicago. Love Japan and my partner is South Korean so I go to Seoul a bit too.
Artists: Leonardo da vinci, banksy, Shepard fairey, david choe, ron english, d*face, faile, dabs myla, stik, jack Kirby.
Music: alexisonfire, while she sleeps, bring me the horizon
Cars: don’t drive but Mercedes amg, lamborghini, as long as its black and looks like something batman would drive.
Drones: don’t have one
Mobile App: instagram, pokemon go
Who are the artist’s you admire the most? Da Vinci, banksy, Shepard fairey.
What are your next projects? Off to New York in October for a new solo show and hopefully some street art out there while I’m in the city.
Define Klassik Magazine for the audience? Awesome!
2017 Box Galleries, London – Pop Provocateur
2016 RISE Gallery, London – Solo Show – Reflections
2015 RISE Gallery, London – Group Show
2015 Soho Contemporary Art, New York – Solo Show – Misfits
2015 CASS Contemporary Art, Tampa – Group Show – Corrosively Bright
2014 Soho Contemporary Art, New York – Solo Show – Studio 259
2014 Soho Contemporary Art, New York – Solo Show – London Calling
2014 Imitate Modern, London – Solo Show – Kryptonite
2013 Imitate Modern, London – Solo Show – The Inner Outsider
2013 Baku, London – Solo Show – Pop up Showcase
2012 Imitate Modern, London – Solo Show – Just be You Tiful
2012 Imitate Modern, London – Group Show – Proud to be British
2012 Baku Museum of Modern Art, Azerbaijan – Group Show
2012 Opera Gallery, London – Group Show
2011 Opera Gallery Pop Up Show, London – Solo Show
2011 Opera Gallery, London – The Street Art Show alongside artists Blek Le rat, Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Seen, Logan Hicks,
Ron English, Nick Walker, The London Police, Saber, Kid Zoom, D*Face, Anthony Lister, Swoon, Sweet Toof.
2011 Opera Gallery, London – Group Show
2010 Gallery Rouge, St Albans – Solo Show
2011 Bonhams, London – Urban Art Show (achieved an auction valuation of £8000)