Meet Artist George Rouy

Meet Artist George Rouy

The figurative painter is redefining the definition of a working artist.

The figurative painter is redefining the definition of a working artist.

Photography: Britt Lloyd

Styling: Rasharn Agyemang

Text: SAMUEL ANDERSON

This interview appears in the pages of VMAN40: The New Vanguard Issue, on newsstands now. Order your copy today at shop.vmagazine.com!

In London during the early ‘90s, an eclectic crop of recent art school grads took the art world by storm in a blockbuster group show at Charles Saatchi called “Young British Artists.” While the name—later shortened to the YBAs—stuck, many in the group, including Damien Hirst, Gary Hume, and Chris Ofili, would “grow up” to become some of the most enduring names in contemporary art. If there’s anyone who embodies the swift ascendancy of the YBAs, it’s George Rouy, a leather-clad, chemical-haired figurative painter from Kent.

Since graduating from Camberwell College of Arts in 2015, Rouy has had at least one solo show per year, and in June made his U.S. debut at Anna Zorina Gallery in New York. And while he may dress the part of an enfant terrible—and cites YBAs, particularly the Chapman Brothers and Ofili, as influences—what makes Rouy the punk rocker of his generation is his back-to-basics approach to art—something he once viewed as a handicap. “At uni, the thought of being a painter—especially a figurative painter—was almost outdated. At the time I was so against it,” he says. “You get this thing in your head that there’s not a place for it. But after I graduated I really fell back in love with it. It felt like starting from the bottom up again.” Informed by everything from Picasso to medieval art, Rouy’s figures are slightly muted and foreshortened, almost primal in their simplicity. Whereas some first-gen YBAs have branched out to increasingly fantastical media (see: Damien Hirst’s gold-plated wooly mammoth) Rouy seems content to work in his sketchy, lo-fi style. “I [start by making] a series of 10 drawings at once, maybe five minutes at a time. I rarely paint from life. It just comes out of my head,” he says. That being said, like most young people, Rouy refuses most labels. “I don’t consider myself a painter. I consider myself an artist. I don’t want to be restricted.”

GEORGE WEARS CLOTHING AND SHOES BERLUTI
Credits: STYLIST ASSISTANT FELIX PARADZA, LOCATION THE BRUNSWICK CENTRE

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