Street Artist Interview: RUN

RUN’s love of travel has driven him to create work everywhere from his native Italy to China to London where he lives now. His latest piece, large as always, is inspired by carnival season and can be seen at The Foundry. Hands and interlocking faces have long been a RUN signature in London.

Past his days of leaving his mark on trains and lorries, RUN talks to us about why he likes to paint legal walls these days, tells us where the name RUN comes from and gives us his thoughts on the attitude toward the graffiti scene in London.  (Except where otherwise indicated, all photos are from RUN).

What’s the story behind the name RUN?

RUN ‘s tag has been inspired by a Cypress Hill song, from the name of the dog of an Italian Mutoides friend (GRUNE), from the sound of these three letters with no meaning added.  When you are young and you choose a tag, it doesn’t usually have the deepest meaning ever.  It is like if you get a tattoo when you are 16 or 18 then ten year later it is just a mark on you, but it stays on your skin forever.

When and where did you create your first street art? What was it?

I used to graff when I was very little on trains, lorries , walls. Then I started to create paintings out of Hip Hop, using matt emulsion, water-based colour, rolls and brushes. My first big wall was in 2003 while squatting in a building in Italy. The meaning of that painting was: “We are here now and we haven’t got fear of nobody!”

RUN Street Art

You’ve just finished painting a big, colourful wall at The Foundry. Talk us through the ideas behind this piece.

Wall at Foundry: I had to adapt my design to what was already on the wall before (a recent colourful style by Milo Tchais), so I developed some shapes (hands) which I’m quite confident to make. Then I added some characters. The characters are wearing those hands like fancy dress costumes.  It is March and we are in carnival period, isn’t it ?


Photo by Street Art London

Most of your work is large-scale. What challenges does this present? Does it mean sticking to mostly legal walls?

Big is better I think, especially in a era when the mass communication from corporate advertisements are so massive everywhere.  Tags and wall writing graffiti are almost invisible in a busy visual environment.  We should create contrast.  If the background is gray, let’s use as much colour as we can!  I am not really interested anymore in the adrenaline rush of painting illegally.  If a wall is legal, it is more than okay . It’s already revolutionary and political to paint public spaces.  I’m still going illegal if I need to though.

RUN Street Art

We remember some of your profile-style faces in Hackney a few years ago. Your work seems to be more detailed and complex lately. Is this your style evolving naturally or has it been a conscious change?

Once I moved to London, my drawings were constantly changing. This depends on the circumstances.  I had to be quick (especially if I painted in the day time on a busy road ), so I had to make simple shapes and no outline, but if I have the time and opportunity, I like to go complex.  Sadly (for me) most of the people in London have a “street logo”, so I had to get one (the faces), but I still try to make each painting with something new and different.

RUN Street Art

You’ve collaborated with artists like OZMO and M-City in the past. Is there a particular London-based artist you’d like to work with in the future? Why?

I am always up to collaborate in a wall but it has to be interaction between the two parts otherwise there’s no fun.  And when I meet an artist, I’m not afraid to ask …

RUN Street Art

You’ve painted all over the world from your native Italy to China to Albania and many more places. What are your best and worst memories as a street artist abroad?

Let’s just say that I paint because I want to travel.  There’s no better thing than to see another country and culture and possibly work during the trip.  If I can keep my travel wheel spinning that’s enough for me to be happy.

RUN Street Art

If you could choose any London wall to redecorate, where would you take your paints and what would you create?

There are such a lots of walls in East London that I’d like to paint – blind facade (facade without windows) that are there just for be painted.  The anti-graffiti policy in London is totally without sense.  Maybe somebody can do something for that.  I am doing what I can from my point of view that you “legalise” graffiti and murals in more spots that could only bring better thoughts to the people.

RUN Street Art

We’ve seen a few similarities between your work the art of BLU. Which other street artists give you inspiration?

I am inspired by freedom, originality and quality.  I’ve meet many good artists on my way and I’m lucky to have grown up with many good people around. I know London keeps your mind very busy, but there are many other places and artists to discover around Europe and the rest of the planet.

RUN Street Art

Why is street art important? What do you hope to accomplish or communicate through creating your art in public spaces?

It is simply a way to communicate, but is free.  Nobody is going to tell me what to draw on the street.  And I got the proof in my experiences that people are just happy to see that happen.  If they are not that means that they’re pissed off on their own.

RUN Street Art

For more from RUN check out his site RUN ABC.