Street artist RUN “wasn’t ever beaten up by bankers”
- Credit: photo: Arnaud Stephenson
“I’ve never been beaten up by bankers before,” legendary street artist RUN told me laughing, as we reached a violent scene depicting men in suits laying into the semi-autobiographical character ‘G’ as he showed me around his exhibition.
Otherwise known as Giocomo Bufarini, his first ever gallery show of 83 pen and ink illustrations tell a surreal story dealing with Biblical themes like Creation and temptation along with other philosophical nuggets including capitalism, war, creativity, birth and death.
The detailed sketches in ‘Parabola di G’ are set against a bold 3D backdrop more akin to his work on the streets, repeating themes from the circular narrative of the sketches, which starts with a comet crashing to earth and ends with a comet taking off into space.
The story follows ‘G’, who finds a “hat of imagination” in the wake of the comet’s destruction, and is enticed by a mermaid into a temple - modelled on Wall Street - where he is recognised as not being “part of the system”.
The Italian who moved from Ancona to London seven years ago says his story is influenced by his time in the city, where he has sometimes encountered “psychological violence” – even if he has never literally been attacked.
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“Sometimes when you can’t find humanity around you, and you are treated like one of the insignificant people, which we are, I have felt like that,” he said.
“We are constantly surrounded by bodies so we don’t distinguish any more, but at the same time every person has a mother, father, kids, friends, has been loved, we kind of forget that, there is a lack of humanity sometimes.
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“Individual preciousness gets lost very easily, in big cities especially.”
Although GIocomo, who lives in Lower Clapton, feels as though he has lost out on a certain quality of life by being here where the pace of life is so fast, he concedes that opportunities taking part in this show would perhaps not happen elsewhere.
Now 34, he has always been attracted to street art and painted his first graffiti of letters two decades ago as a teenager.
It set in motion a hobby which saw him painting murals on abandoned walls in Bologna and Florence under the pseudonym ‘RUN’, catalysing the European street art movement.
Today his works can be found adorning street corners from China and Senegal to Hackney.
“That’s something I will always want to do,” he said.
“It’s very important to give people the possibility of seeing not just the artwork but ultimately that someone cares about putting an artwork spontaneously on the street, without any money involved or commission paid, I think it’s such a generous thing to do.
“It gives hope, a smile, it gives the idea that potentially we can reclaim what is our space, and it’s a political act, to take a space and do something you love, not just vandalising it.
“Although if you do a big colourful flower on a dirty corner of the street I’m sure there will always be someone who will say you have vandalised it.”
The story ends with a demonic King Kong gorilla who takes control of the hat of creativity, but G tricks him into self destruction, rips out his heart, and launches it into space to become a comet once more.
“In everyone there is a spark of good even if they have been living in the wrong way,” he explained.
“I think art is a bit like choosing the love and giving away not the imagination - because the imagination is within the love - but it’s a bit like passing the baton when you do a marathon, now it’s your time to do the story.”
The exhibition runs at the Howard Griffin Gallery in Shoreditch High Street until January.