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Rich Simmons JUST BE YOU TIFUL

PRIVATE VIEW: Thursday 11th October

“Art saved my life, I really have a debt to art”

A striking statement for Simmons to make, but with the journey he’s made through his life, you can see how. He has not only dedicated his life to art – an escapism from an early age, he has also set up ‘Art Is The Cure’, a community which uses street art to engage with schools and youth organisations and bringing people together from all backgrounds.

‘Just Be You Tiful’ is an exploration of beauty through being yourself. Beauty through glamour, beauty through fetish, beauty in tattoos and above all, honesty. Simmons uses his graffiti background and style to interpret this honestly and to study how others perceive beauty in response.

‘Art Is The Cure’ is Rich’s way of giving back to the art community. Being mildly autistic himself, his art has shown him a positive route to life and he wants to share it with the world. He seeks to allow people to use creativity in their own way and also find new ways of using art therapy.

“Unfortunately too many people turn to negative releases like self harm, drugs, even suicide. Art is an alternative release that can get all of that emotion out of your system but in a positive way. Whether it’s painting something, writing, music, drawing etc, if it involves your imagination and gets out the emotion in a positive way then it is a form of creative therapy. It’s just channeling that energy into something different and at the end of it you feel better and have a painting or poem or song to reflect on instead of scars on your arm or a trip to the hospital.”

Simmons uses the most accessible form of art to spread his message; graffiti. He learned his style and technique from comic books, copying Pop Art and using stencils, thriving in the versatility of the spray can. He realises the importance of pushing boundaries and sees the importance of experimentation in the street art movement.

“I love to work on the street as it is a different kind of release from canvas work in the studio and there’s a different kind of process and thought pattern behind it. Sometimes I need that challenge to keep things fresh and keep myself experimenting and growing as an artist.”

Simmons has been famed for having an entire show of work purchased by the Princess of Azerbaijan. He was the first street artist to be invited there to paint the streets of Baku – a highly surreal experience.

“The people there had never seen work like it and it was exciting to go to a school and get the reactions from art students and take the work out onto the street to see how people responded to it. It was a huge challenge but one I loved. I came back to London inspired and excited to evolve and move forwards with my own art and I think I have done that.”

‘Just Be You Tiful’ is that evolution in Simmons’ work and opens up the beauty of street art and graffiti as well as print, stencil and experimentation at the Imitate Modern exhibition.

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