Interdisciplinary Artist Roberto Grosso Discusses Augmented Reality, Music and Art

When did you first realise that you wanted to be an artist?

Oh Jesus, that was a very long time ago, I think I was twenty when I started playing the guitar and it was my dream to be a musician, which happened. When I was in Italy the only career that I had was eight years of professional music; touring with my band and making my own music.

When that finished, the band split up because people started getting married and having kids and I was like alright, this is finishing. As soon as that door closed I came to London and I started to become a designer for companies like Yahoo, Myspace; big companies. At the same time, I really needed to express myself and I didn’t have anymore output, or release.

I started painting and they were working alright, but I wasn’t yet sure that it was my go to place. One night in 2009 I was very very lucky, some of my paintings were noticed by Kanye West.

Big Empty

How did they get noticed?

I would like to say that I know how, but I have no idea. At the time Kanye West did a blog called Kanye University which was the most followed blog in the world, and he put all of my paintings on his website saying this is the artist of the month Roberto Grosso. Immediately the next day I started receiving emails saying come to the U.S. teach us how to do it, so I said OK everyone stop, please, now. I think I found my second coming of Jesus, haha, the second coming of an artist, so instead of creating with an instrument I now played with visual art.

It took me a while to realise what I wanted, I still wanted to put the music inside of it and that’s what I did. I said OK why don’t I mix the two together, I discovered augmented reality and now I can actually show you the full picture of what I do.

Can you describe to me your creative process?

The starting point is always the song; I listen to a song that I really like. Right now I have a playlist of like fifty songs that I want to work with, so I’m going to be alright for the next couple of years. Typically, they can be any song you know: punk, electronic, classical, it doesn’t matter, I love all music. Starting from there I listen to the song and try to extrapolate the lyrics, the rhythm, the sequence of chords, so I play it with my guitar and take what I want. Then I call my model and photographer in Naples, Francesca Errichiello, and say please take this series of pictures and I already know where I want to go.

Then the difficult part, which at the end is taking those pictures, putting my style on top of it and trying to achieve, every time, something different. I know exactly what I could do with my style and it would probably take a couple of hours, I could take those pictures and having a finished product, but every time I want to do something different. It can take me months to change it just a little bit and then, at the end, when I am happy with it I test it and print it on metallic paper or brush metal which is my main medium right now. The last step I put on top of it is the augmented reality to show the viewer and make them interact with the painting because that’s what I want, that’s what happens with me when I go to an exhibition. I want to engage, like being on a stage. I miss the stage so much that I want to recreate that sort of thing without the guitar but with art.

One Armed Scissor

Do you notice a big difference between the art scene in Italy and the one we have here?

So when I started doing exhibitions here I went back to see how the reaction would be and yes there is a difference, because London is London. London is such an open place with people from all over the world. I think you can possibly exhibit anything as long as it’s of a high quality and you can always have an audience that is interested in what you do; you have the biggest audience in the world and everyone is ready to see it.

One of the biggest differences is Italy is a bit more closed, in the sense that it is more classical, they like modern art as opposed to contemporary, let’s say. They like certain kinds of art. Because I propose something that uses technology it is taking a longer time to break it to that audience because the people from that world are more old fashioned, so that’s the only difference that I can notice. But it’s good to go places and see how they react, I had an exhibition in Austria and they reacted different; I am always looking for impact.

What do you think has been your biggest achievement as an artist?

The first, even though I don’t think I was ready at the time was being recognised by Kanye West, that was incredible, because I was only starting. 

Probably exhibiting in New York was probably my biggest achievement, in 2011 I won a competition, and was published in a book and then they showed my work on the big screens in Time Square. It was open to the public and anyone there could see it. It was amazing.

All Apologies

Where do you hope to be artistically in ten years’ time?

I definitely want to keep doing what I am doing and improve every time. I don’t want to say that I reject my previous work, but I am not looking back much. Even what I produced this year, I am really happy with it and think its better that what I produced last year, it has developed a bit.

In ten years I will probably be happy with what I create in that year, but I think the dream is to actually make it as a living and be able to actually do those interesting exhibitions and collaborations; that’s what I am looking for. For example, next year I am working with an agent who wants to launch me in Los Angeles, so I am working towards that and for that I am creating my own music. In December I am going to Italy to record five songs that I made and a couple of people are going to sing on it. Then I’ll go to Los Angeles and create five paintings based on those and perform in front of the people, so it’s a very immersive and interactive show. That is the dream, to do all of these things and propose something different to the public every time.

Roberto will be showing his interactive digital paintings in Focus LDN's Winter Exhibition this December 13-17th at The Menier Gallery.