Hugo Barclay

Roberto Grosso

Hugo Barclay
Roberto Grosso

Roberto Grosso

Roberto Grosso | Italian visual artists based in London

Lotus Flower.

Lotus Flower.

Do you ever feel anxious about whether you are doing things right, if they've never been done before? 

David Bowie is great about that.  He said some amazing things: if you are comfortable you are not doing something new, you are not expressing yourself.  Being slightly outside your typically place is probably the best spot for you. It is like standing on one foot; you are not at your best balance but you may see things differently.

Because I have been creating for a couple of years, I know my comfort zone as soon as I start creating.  When I recognise it, I try to move on. 

In terms of art, I try to move on with my use of materials - recently I have been working with metal, metallic paper and different types of light boxes with perspex.


What exhibitions have surprised you that you have been too?

A Canadian artist - Andrew Salgado.  He had this great exhibition at the Canadian Embassy.  I love his style. He creates gigantic works with fantastic colours.  

Black code.

Black code.

What are the key principles you could give to someone wanting tips on how to put on a good exhibition...

I would say try anything. Test yourself, it doesn't matter if you're art doesn't sell in this gallery it might sell in another. Of course, you need to see how your art fits in that particular space.

The best thing for emerging artists is spending a lot of time searching for galleries which are good for them.  Experiment, check with the space.

Try to get the best deal you can for your art. There is a tendency to just accept everything that is given to you at the beginning without questioning it. But it is important also to learn how to say no. It is difficult because it feels as if you're letting opportunities pass you by.  I have had to learn how to do this a lot recently. To put it simply most galleries would take 50% of your commissions and then they're not invested in actually selling your work because they don't care, they already have your money.


What about tips for your first few days of opening your show?

You need to learn your audience; how they behave and react. Know how to leave people alone to view the art and then when to put on the pressure when they're showing interest.

Some artists don’t want to talk about their work, which is fine, but as a musician first, I miss the stage. 

When I am in an exhibition it is quite boring, it can be very static.  For me it is important to talk about my work.


What is your definition of success?

I think being respected by my peers. A lot of people consider success as money or being famous, I don’t think it necessarily means that.

I am scared of the word success, because it could mean arriving; but I am scared it means the end.

What if once you are there, you cannot manoeuvre. The worst case is like Michael Jackson who was famous at age eight, and then had to be eight for ever. I guess success would mean being able to survive on just my art.


How do you use social media to promote your work?

Before creating a piece of art, I will create a short video of me playing an extract of the song, to give an idea of what is happening. From then on, I promote the piece. I launch it on all the social media accounts I have, and see how it goes. 


In your perspective, what is the function of art in society?

This is a tough one. It could be answered in a million ways.  I am funny about political art in the sense that I always feel you need a sort of separation.

For me art should transcend subjects like politics to explore more universal themes.

We are unfortunately in a period where politics is really felt by the people.  With the new sense of division with Brexit and Trump, there is a feeling of separation which is actually a common theme for all of us.  I think that is what art should do; try to talk about humanity.  It should be honest about our existence.


Do you have any favourite book or resources you use?

More than books I read comics. I am a sucker for Batman. I love Dead-Pool because it is hilarious. Lately I love a series called Saga, it is quite unique. I get a lot of visual inspiration from that, which I know is not a great thing to say!  You never know where you will find inspiration


You are a music guy, so favourite music?

I would say an incredible source of inspiration is always Jimi Hendrix and Radiohead.

What were some of the lessons you learned from significant people in your life? 

All my immediate family have been amazing. My parents let me do what I wanted, which in Italy was being a professional musician, guitarist and composer of my own music. They let me do it until it all crashed. We had the last big concert with an amazing band in Italy. We finished with a bang, which was amazing.

The lesson I learned was to try to focus on the thing you are are talented at, and go for it. Do it as much as you can!


Music has been a huge part of your identity for a big period of your life.  Were you playing music when you came to London?

Coming to London was bitter sweet.  A new beginning. I was 28 and not sure what I wanted to do.  

I played with several bands which lasted maybe 6 months.  I noticed it was more stressful than anything. I think I was looking for a break, so I kept playing but more as a hobby.

In the last 2 years of my music career, I started as a designer as a 'plan b' which I am glad about as it gave me some security when I first moved over.


Tell us a little about your early career as a designer...

When I moved to London, I started freelancing and within one year landed my first job as a designer.  I was looking for some money and being a professional musician doesn’t really pay that much.  

Initially I worked for Yahoo and it was incredible in the sense of what I learned.  In my latest job I am a UX designer which is, in my opinion, one of the most important fields which has emerged in design.

How did you get to this point? Have you had any mentors? 

No not really, it is something that has happened by trial and error.  I have been lucky in the fact that I started believing that I could do art because I was discovered you could say by Kanye West.  One night I received hundreds of emails suddenly and I couldn't understand what was going on.   He had put all my work on his website.  In 2009 that was the most followed blog in the world.  It was just a shock.  

It changed the attitudes of other people.  There was more respect but at the same time there was jealousy.   It did however give me the confidence that I could really do this, especially since I received a lot of emails asking me to come to the US and teach.  I wondered what I was supposed to teach as I was just doing my own thing.


Talk me through your daily routine? How do you fit making around your life?

Routine can be bitter sweet in a sense; it is amazing because it keeps you safe in what you actually have to do in the day to survive.  It enables me to save some space in my brain to do something else.

It is also very dangerous.  Routine can get you into a place where you do not want to experiment.  

That is my life - living between the routine of work, and also trying to get out of it.

 I work 3 days a week, from Monday to Wednesday during which time I am on a perfect routine.  Then as soon as I'm out, my routine stops. 


Talk to me about your relationship with your image as an artist? How important is your brand to you?

I definitely want my brand of art to come across. It is very simple; music inspired art powered by augmented reality. It is probably 6 or 7 words.  Whilst brand is important, the art itself is more important so I really hope that comes across.

Cosi Forte.

Cosi Forte.

Do you have any rituals, or obsessions to put you in the right mindset?

Certain music helps.  I connect my playlists with my art. My art is inspired by a song I tend to listen to over and over again, almost as if I am becoming mad.  I also learn how to play it on my guitar so I produce my own version of it. 


How do you price your work?

It took me a while. I was underselling myself at the beginning. You start from a very humble place, but you shouldn’t put the price up before you understand its value. That is an unfortunate reality of being an artist.

After several exhibitions, talking to curators, the galleries and other people in the art scene - we came up with a figure we all agreed on.  It was sort of like, look this is the value now, and you can do originals or limited editions.   At the start, I was afraid to sell originals for that amount (around £8000). Then on top of that if you exhibit in a gallery you might charge more because you have to give away 50% of it.

I went down the road of limited editions; it was easier to sell more and see which artworks did better. The idea of creating a piece and then selling it as an original at that prices is quite daunting.


Tell us about the augmented reality in your work

Demonstration of Roberto's work with augmented reality.

Demonstration of Roberto's work with augmented reality.

My art takes its inspiration from music and is produced in metal, metallic paper or perspex. The key elements of my art are the use of vibrant colour and augmented reality - which brings the artwork to life by showing the stages of its creation to a soundtrack of the music that inspired it.

I’m using Aurasma, it’s an app developed by HP, to show the augmented reality in my art. Each of my artworks is powered to show the process of the whole piece, from start to finish, through videos, images and animations on top of my artworks.

With augmented reality I’m able to take the viewers to an artistic journey that they’ve never experienced before. They can see what inspires me, and understand my artistic view and translation into visual of any piece of music.

Are you in London and interested in organising artist studio visits and discovering the active emerging art scene?