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Rugman ‘Sister, Mother’

Born in Glasgow, Rugman currently lives and works out of east London. Two areas of exploration for the artist are modern iconography and the power of symbols.

Born in Glasgow, Rugman currently lives and works out of east London. Two areas of exploration for the artist are modern iconography and the power of symbols.

In January 2016 the exhibition ‘Sister, Mother’ introduced a new body of work by the artist. Original works on aluminium, canvas, wood and paper explored the relationship between mankind and the natural environment.

Congratulations on ‘Sister, Mother’! I found the images beautiful and disarming, in that I was drawn in by the rich imagery, but on closer inspection these women were in a state of transformation. In some ways they reminded me of ‘Beata Beatrix’ by Rossetti, yet there was nothing of traditional religious iconograpy in ‘Sister, Mother’. Did you choose women because they represented a more pagan, pre-Christian age?

The works are richly adorned with symbols drawn from various cultures and faiths, such as the all- seeing eye and staves. The latter were Nordic symbols intended to ward off evil spirits and to aid the accumulation of wisdom. Birds and butterflies feature in many works and both creatures have represented the soul; birds in Ancient Egypt and butterflies in antiquity and Christian art.
“The body can help us remember and embrace nature. Through it we experience the four fundamental feelings of fear, sadness, joy and love.”
“I wanted to create works of simplicity and beauty. I looked back to when nature was an integral part of human life; when it was a spiritual element symbolised in the art and mark-making of clans and tribes.”
I investigated how mankind has sought to understand its place in the universe. Over time humans have woven the four elements, the four seasons, the five senses, the four temperaments, the power of geometry and taxonomies of feelings into various belief systems. One striking conclusion reached by the artist concerned the fundamental power of woman – embodied by the central figure.

‘Sister, Mother’ strives to reconnect humans to nature, both in subject matter and the materials used. Do you think that ‘Art’ has a duty to do that?

I set out to execute these works on a variety of surfaces that would represent the four elements. Hence, works have been created on wood, paper, canvas and aluminium. The manufacture and preparation of each has employed earth, fire, water and air.If I am honest it’s only in the last few years I’ve felt that yes it does. I don’t know whether this is me getting older and also the influence of being a father. This project gave me a chance to look at myself and life in general, to look a little deeper. Spiritually my connection has always come through my work and this new body of work has taken it to the next level.

You design your own streetwear label which seems to be the antithesis of ‘Art’ and its rarity or uniqueness. Is the process of creating a fashion piece the same as for your art?

I would say my process no matter what I am creating is the same and I have my same routines that I go through when creating any art. The big difference is time lines and the turn around for clothing graphics is much quicker paced. When preparing my solo show it was a year in the making from start to finish, you don’t get that time for the graphics. I still though that the t-shirt is one of the best canvases for aspiring artists or illustrators to get there work out there for the masses to recognise.

Symbols and iconography being central to your art, are you surprised by how some viewers ‘read’ your work?

Symbols, markings and tribal elements are things that have evolved through the years in my work. It began with the more esoteric and sinister side of secret society and tattoo. This side of things would bring mixed responses from the viewer, sometimes even questioning if I was part of the cult… Ha ha. Now I am looking more at historical tribal elements and also future tribes of one nation the human nation.

What’s next for Rugman?

I have quite a few commissions to work through the next 2 months and also have 2 large murals I am working on in east London. I am also planning a show in New York and Japan next year.





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