StreetUrban Art Photography



Nemo’s told us to meet in a parking lot far from the city centre of Bologna, just in the outskirts. We recognized him thanks to some paint stains on his clothes. We thanked him for the time he was spending with us and for being one of the artists which…

«Don’t call me artist!»

Excuse me?
«Behind the word artist there’s a social label that frequently and indirectly tends to penalize other people. The artist is elevated to a higher level: very often people treat you as you were doing something superhuman. This embarrasses me and I don’t like it very much, I am not more special than others.»


© Robby Rent,
Reggio Emilia (ITA), 2016

Don’t you think you have a gift?
«I think that the gift is something especially human. Everyone in his own domain has an exceptional quality. About me: in comparison to some other people, I am more prepared for graphic representation, but for example I don’t know much about photography. The point is that other gifts are less valued when compared to the so-called artistic qualities

You’re right but has there ever been a time you said to yourself “I’m good at drawing”?
«No, I never thought that! Even now I feel frustrated because I have this feeling of not doing enough. It’s my nature, I’m constantly trying to improve. I think I won’t ever be able to say “this was a good job”. Sometimes I ask myself if this is really my place and I think about something else to do instead, just for this reason. I know it’s ridiculous, but I have always been so insecure. My judgment of myself is extreme, I am ruthless towards myself and controversial towards everything and everybody.»

Is this particular aspect of your nature mirrored in your characters?
«My characters are not happy with who they are. Probably there’s a whole Freudian theory behind it, a complex anthropological aspect. I think to myself that in the human being there had been a sort of evolution mistake: the brain development had been too fast in comparison to the rest of the body. We are able to endlessly think to very complicated, paradoxical or hard to understand things because we can’t experience them. I am fascinated by the opportunity that Man has of doing things but I am disgusted by how clumsy all of us are not doing all these things we could actually do and not enjoying this potential. That’s the idea at the basis of my drawings.»


© Robby Rent,
Vedriano (ITA), 2017

You look like you are very fond of sciences, aren’t you?
«When I was a little boy the only TV shows my parents made me see were the ones about science, that’s where my fondness for these issues started. Biology and science allow to discover things beyond imagination, while creativity is linked to experience, to the images of our iconographic culture in which we have grown and have been educated. We could never imagine something we haven’t seen.»

Let’s talk about your walls. In Messina you painted one that is still very topical.
«That drawing is about Italian perception of immigration. TV shows about migrants usually go deep into various aspects but they often avoid talking about the death of these people as an issue. Then I asked myself how our society would treat those bodies, how far would they push this situation. So I thought that bodies would be considered as wet linens to be air-dried, because the only problem would be that they are wet and need to be dried, the fact that they are dead would not be a problem.»

All your characters are naked. Have you ever been criticized for that?
«Just in Messina a man said he was shocked and worried about how he would have explained the naked drawings to his daughter. According to how I want to describe the human being, the fact of being completely and uncensored naked treasures the concept of humiliation that I want to confer to my characters.»

Whereas in New York…
«This subject was supposed to be made near Wall Street, but there are few walls in that area, so I moved to Brooklyn. The idea was born from the mix of two readings: one was about the weight of the soul and the other was about a volunteering association in NYC that works with homeless people. In this second article there was the story of an ex-broker living on the street; they found 21 dollars in his wallet when he died and that’s where the idea of the soul weighing 21 grams came. The wall title is 1 gram because that’s the weight of one-dollar notes. Moreover, the dollar has a strong symbolic value, when used as an icon and a synthetic image. My idea was born from the following question: what’s the unit of measurement of our social position? Is money the unit of measurement used to weigh us?»


© Robby Rent,
Brooklyn (USA), 2017

Let’s go back to your personality. We know that you’re a sensitive person and also a sensorial one: you’re collecting smells, aren’t you? 

«A smell conjures much more than a picture; every time I go to a new place I look for a smell that goes with it. It doesn’t have to be new or typical of that place, I rather look for a smell that in the future could be a ‘postcard’ of the place for myself. At home I have a lot of small boxes where I keep those “memories”. Smell, biologically speaking, is the only sense linked to the most animal part of our brain, the more instinctive one, that’s why the olfactory memory lasts forever.»

What’s next?
«First of all I need to update the website, which has been still for too long now. Then I should make some prints in cooperation with David de la Mano

Any new walls? …even if you’re not an artist!
«Of course! I’d like to make some about migration.»


© Robby Rent
Maria Chiara Wang