Nina Raasch – Saskia Jung


Photography · Nina Raasch
Styling · Saskia Jung
Hair and Makeup · Darja Crainiucenco
Model · Clara Dibbern (Le Management, Premier Models London)

Styling Credits

  1. Dress ROKH, tights FALKE and shoes ACNE STUDIOS
  2. Top AKNVAS, earring CULT GAIA, tights FALKE and heels lOANNES
  3. Dress MM6 MAISON MARGIELA, knitwear longsleeve HADERLUMP, heels ACNE STUDIOS and earrings UNCOMMON MATTERS
  4. Dress DAVID KOMA
  5. Bra top, arm sleeves and knitted pants KATHARINA DUBBICK, tights FALKE and shoes MM6 MAISON MARGIELA
  7. Top ROKH, dress styled as skirt LION BUSCH and necklace MAX MARA
  8. Longsleeve AVENIR, knit pants KATHARINA DUBBICK, earring UNCOMMON MATTERS and heels OANNEC
  9. Dress MATERIEL, earrings CULT GAIA and heels lOANNES

Elsa Rouy

An artistic metaphysical surgeon

Grotesque bodies writhing in pain, catharsis, and even brief relief emerge in the artworks of Elsa Rouy. She is fascinated by the way bodies behave as vessels as if the form humans inhabit were once empty containers now filled with external impurities. In her paintings, the young British artist dissects women figuratively and literally. Blood and flesh intertwine, and their vivid shock and detailed stupor are brought out by every brush stroke. Eyes far apart, wet hair, dripping fluids, a cut-up chest, an eye coming out of the labia, entangled bodies, and complex, undefined, and intricate emotions to be unpacked and explored. These paintings unravel the mystic center of all kinds of emotions, anatomizing them until their influential power and how they come to play in daily life seep through and become known.

Elsa’s themed focus undulates too. There is an evolution in how she approaches her art, and it is evident in her recent paintings and their more pronounced technical elements. Her earlier works ooze abstraction with enough visual cues to pinpoint who the figures are (take her mother and child series where, for example, she explored the concept of bodily fluids and motherhood). Recently, her paintings take a darker route, a sharper solid state, and a more emblematic yet relatable spin on emotions. A temporary shying away from the diaphanous bodies of women, her artworks employ female forms as a medium of absurdity that hopes to make viewers feel unsettled. A gnawing feeling digs into their emotions as they gaze at the paintings, trying to pull themselves away from her artworks yet already too deep into Elsa’s world for them to let go.

In a conversation with NR, Elsa revisits the themes she explores, attempts to define the abstruse emotions that flow from her to her artworks, and reflects on her paintings as a gateway to who she is; the “metaphysical surgeon” moniker someone calls her; and the parts of herself she is still yet to unravel. 

Matthew Burgos:  I want to start our conversation from the beginning. Can you tell me about your introduction to the art world, paintings in general, and any personal experiences that made an impact on your artistic journey?

Elsa Rouy: I’ve always been into art, and it’s something I’ve done since I was a child. It makes sense for the trajectory of pursuing it as a career as an adult. There have been a couple of times that changed my view on how I approach art. When I went to college, I started seeing it as both a career and a hobby. This perspective became stronger in university. Thematically, my artwork is a development from childhood. I’ve always channeled my emotional experiences into a creative process, mainly through drawing and writing since I was a child. As I’ve grown older, this has become more prominent, extending into poetry and painting, exploring other art forms. Now, I’m working on this idea, but with the awareness to critically engage with concepts and consider their reaction to an audience rather than just myself.

Matthew Burgos: Would you say you grew up in an artistic environment?

Elsa Rouy: Yes, it was definitely encouraged. I think my parents weren’t artists or involved in the arts, but my mom used to draw sometimes, and whenever we did something creative, we were always encouraged to make things and draw. Doing anything with our hands was never discouraged. So I think it was a healthy environment where we were allowed to grow artistically.

Matthew Burgos:  Were you conscious of the themes that you wanted to explore in your artworks? 

Elsa Rouy: No, I don’t. I’ve always liked drawing the body, but I think it was only recently that I started to think deeply about it. It developed through my studies, but it’s only been in the last year that I’ve honed in on what I want to explore with my artwork and try to do that with precision, rather than just painting whatever comes to my head.

Matthew Burgos: But did you go through that process? Did you experience a time when you dabbled in so many themes, trying to figure out what you wanted to focus on?

Elsa Rouy: Yes – I think this happens a lot with everyone where you go off on different routes. There were definitely points where I was trying to make more explicitly political artworks or ones that were less overtly sexual, and maybe more about the ordinary, but I realized that I was interested in this idea of using the body as a vessel and manipulating it to express emotions and explore the brutality of the human condition. So, that’s what I want to focus on rather than trying to go down these other routes.

Matthew Burgos: Do you think there’s a spiritual context going on with this artistic thought? 

Elsa Rouy: I guess so. I’ve never thought of it as spirituality, but I guess it could be in a way because I’m looking into emotions, and there’s a lot to do with, as I always said, about the body being this vessel, this container, and the idea of having these emotions and the existence that we have within it, the containment, and then the leaking out of it, and how we try to contain everything emotionally, but it doesn’t work. And that’s why I’m interested in the fluids coming out and the breaking of the body to signify this false sense of containment that we try to have. So I guess it could be spiritual in that sense, but I don’t think I do stuff for very spiritual reasons.

Matthew Burgos: What are these emotions that we’re talking about?

Elsa Rouy: It’s quite difficult to explain. So it’s not one emotion. It’s trying to look at the intensity of different emotions. They could be like despair or destructive emotions, or maybe even softer emotions like happiness. But then it’s taking them to the limit of complete chaos, basically. And I think a lot of the time inside, it can feel like that, and it’s trying to find the balance between the soft emotions and the brutal emotions. It’s hard to pinpoint which ones because it’s a different range. I guess they used to look a lot at shame, but I’ve moved away from that now, and it’s more of an exploration of different emotions.

Matthew Burgos: Are these emotions that you personally firsthand experience, or ones that you want to focus on in your art?

Elsa Rouy: I think it’s a bit of both. So it’s going back to what I said at the beginning where a lot of it’s taken from emotions that I feel. Then I write poetry, and it would normally be in the moment, get a couple of sentences out. And it’s the same when I come up with an idea for a painting. This image will start forming, but then I go back to them and from a non-emotional point or mindset, I change them. So it’s more like observing the emotions from a distance rather than them being chaotic.

Matthew Burgos: You’ve mentioned before that your works are a visual portrayal of mixed emotions, very complicated and hard to define. But at the same time, you set boundaries between you and your work because, at the end of the day, you’re not your work. But you also added that self-reflection is part of your work and that painting allows you to reflect on your emotions. When does this process of using paintings as your medium start and end, and how do you separate yourself from your art?

Elsa Rouy: I think when I said that I’m not my artwork, I meant it in a quite literal way. When I get criticisms or if I get frustrated with an artwork, I don’t see the artwork as myself, and I try not to let it affect me so directly. It’s not like somebody is attacking me as a person if something goes wrong with the painting or if somebody doesn’t like it or gives a critique. I don’t take it as a personal attack. But I think with the actual artwork itself and myself, it’s a blurred line. And I don’t think there’s ever a clear separation. It’s difficult because when you do it every day and you’re constantly thinking about it, it kind of becomes part of yourself.

I was thinking about this question earlier when you asked me, and the best way I can describe it, it may sound pretentious, but it’s like myself and my artwork seem holistic. All the artworks that I’ve made before and the ones I’m making, as well as the ones in the future, seem to already exist in my head as a space, but not physically. So I think there is a detachment from the physical artworks, but the creative process, the ideas, and the concepts that form them are very ingrained in me. They’re constantly there, and I’m constantly picking them in my head, trying to figure out what I want to do, referencing what I want in the future with my artwork, or what I want in the past and trying to make that now. It’s like they coexist in a plane, and they’re webbed together. There’s probably no escaping being fused with my artwork now, but on a mental level, not physical.

Matthew Burgos: Do you continue the themes that you worked on in the past, or do you prefer to explore new ones and inject nuances of the past themes?

Elsa Rouy: It depends on the theme. Some are recurring, which is natural in my practice and life. But I also leave behind themes that no longer feel important or have reached their limit in exploration. However, even the themes I leave behind still inform the ones I want to explore now. For example, I used to focus on grotesque women and their bodies, but now I use the female form to create absurdity and make people uncomfortable in a different way. So there’s an evolution in how I approach certain themes.

Matthew Burgos: I came across your series where you conceived artworks related to bodily fluids and mothers, and looking at these paintings, how did you correlate these two?

Elsa Rouy: The first theme I explored was about containment and expulsion of the body. Initially, I focused on bodily fluids explosively leaving the body, but now I examine them as leaking or coming out. Whereas before, it was more like violent explosions. Pregnancy and giving birth represent a similar idea, with the body as a container releasing something in a chaotic and violent manner. Both themes touch on the delicate balance between life and death. The expulsion of body fluids can signify dying or illness, while giving birth is about bringing life into the world but also carries risks of death and health issues. To me, these themes have similar meanings as images. The mother figure was significant because it relates to a personal aspect. I used to have fears about becoming a mother, but I’ve now overcome them. When I painted these images, it was like a weird compulsive thing to shift this idea.

Matthew Burgos: What qualities come to your mind when you think of the words mother and child?

Elsa Rouy: The qualities I explore in my artwork related to the mother and child theme are both self-evident and multifaceted. On one hand, it’s about ideas of nurture and protection, creating a safe environment for growth and survival. However, I also delve deeper into the notion of the mother as a safe space while the baby represents something strange and potentially scary that the mother may reject. It’s about examining these complex dynamics.

As for the child, I see them as innocent, fresh, and malleable. They embody a sense of purity as they haven’t been influenced by external factors yet. At that stage, they just exist as a being, growing and learning without the complexities of language and cognitive processes. It’s like witnessing the pure essence of human existence before the complexities of life come into play.

Matthew Burgos: Can you describe your relationship with your mother?

Elsa Rouy: We’re very close, and I consider her one of my best friends! She’s actually visiting me at the moment.

Matthew Burgos: That’s great to hear! And about your recent artworks, you depict a lot of transfigured feminine bodies that exude a wide range of emotions. It made me wonder if these paintings portray psychological dilemmas or distress experienced by the subjects, and if the use of body and nudity serves as a medium to express these emotions. Could you provide some insight into the world that inspired you to create these images? What kind of environment did you immerse yourself in, and what did you envision while visualizing these artworks?

Elsa Rouy: Yes, my recent artworks explore points of emotional brutality. I use the body as a vessel and manipulate and distort it, completely objectifying it until it becomes uncanny and uncomfortable. This allows it to express intense and palpable emotions. I set up scenes with doll-like figures to awkwardly express these feelings. I prefer the snapshots of moments in the paintings because I’m fascinated by the spaces in between things. The slightly abstracted, broken, and distorted bodies create tension, leaving gaps for the audience to interpret and create narratives in their minds. There’s no predefined narrative; the bodies are like puppets placed in a scenery for the audience. The distressed and distorted faces evoke personal emotions in people, making them feel connected and touched. It’s interesting to use the body in a cruel and brutal way to bring out vulnerable and soft emotions in ourselves.

Matthew Burgos: And you did quite visually and literally dissected the body in one of your paintings. Was it a way for you to metaphorically look into the person or explore who that person is?

Elsa Rouy:  Yeah, I think so. The figures are all somewhat based on me, so it’s like breaking the person to find what’s inside. Someone recently described me as a metaphysical surgeon, and I thought it was funny and accurate. It’s weird, but that’s kind of what I do. I never thought of it that way before, but it makes sense. I liked that idea. I’m like, “This is great. I’m going to run with this.” Especially because I want to explore more about blood and the concept of small cuts on the body. It fits well with these ideas. But yeah, it was funny.

Matthew Burgos: I’m wondering if you like horror and gory movies?

Elsa Rouy: If it’s done well, yes, but I like more stylistic ones. I’m not the biggest fan of slasher movies, but I like ones that are more campy eighties ones with the prosthetics and all of that. I went to see Men (2022) with my friends at the cinema, and there’s this scene of a weird rebirth from a man’s body, with grown men coming out of a vagina and everything. And as soon as it happened, all of my friends at the cinema looked at me. I sort of liked that part – the scene, I mean.

Matthew Burgos: Are there things about yourself that you want to know and/or learn more about?

Elsa Rouy: I want to explore everything! I want to discover new things that I genuinely enjoy and are exciting. There are so many activities and experiences I haven’t tried yet, and I believe they could bring a lot of joy into my life. So, I’m eager to find out what I truly like and expand my horizons. I’m interested in getting back into dancing. I used to do it when I was younger, but now maybe try a different style. Um, on the other hand, gardening seems intriguing. Whenever I see videos of it, it looks so calm and relaxing. I’ve never tried it, but it seems like a nice activity to explore.

Matthew Burgos: Even if you have a lot of things to explore, a lot of things that you want to learn more, do you feel connected to yourself or do you feel like you have to learn more about who you are?

Elsa Rouy: Thinking about it now, there are times when I feel connected to myself, for sure. It fluctuates; sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. I see it as a learning process, and it’s natural for it to go up and down throughout life, which makes it interesting. You think you know yourself, and then suddenly you realize that you don’t. It keeps life entertaining and exciting.

But I notice I feel very in touch with myself when I’m using my mind and body together, like when I’m painting. The cognitive movement of my body and the thoughts work in harmony, and in those moments, I feel like myself. On the other hand, there are times when I don’t have control over my body, like when I’m on my period or when I’m ill. In those moments, I feel grounded and deeply connected to my humanity and my body. My brain isn’t preoccupied with self-concepts; it’s more focused on the physicality of the body. And I think that’s when I feel most connected to myself.

Matthew Burgos: And how do you feel today?

Elsa Rouy: I feel pretty good actually. No  crazy emotions going on today, but who knows – it could be different tomorrow.


Artworks courtesy of the artist.

David Bailey Ross

‘Head’ an exploration of the human psyche

David Bailey Ross explores the human psyche, aiming at mirroring the diverse moods humans can convey whether directly or through a more abstract representation.  Characterised by their beautiful transparency, Ross’ works seem transformative. Watercolour pools form in unexpected areas, providing more intuitive distortions. Ross shares here the behind the scenes of @galeriephantom .

@galeriephantom on Instagram is the account on which you publish your ongoing watercolour series ‘Head’, an exploration of the human psyche. Could you tell us more about the title choice and the manifesto behind this series? 

I title the works ‘Head’ as they are not portraits and there is not a manifesto as such, but ‘an exploration of the human psyche’ is the simplest way to summarise the series. I am interested in the different moods or symbolism the human head can convey, sometimes in simple and obvious ways and in others I am looking for a more internal or abstract representation.

Your artworks are characterised by their beautiful transparency. It feels like we have a direct access to what lies beneath the surface — a poetic surgeon almost. Wet on wet watercolour painting means that you should be working quickly to be able to choose where you want the colour to mark the most. How did you master the technique? 

It was through a lot of trial and error with materials and timings. Part of what happens with wet on wet watercolour is by chance, and I like to let the image develop whilst working. Pools form in unexpected areas, distorting marks I had laid down and opening up new possibilities. Watercolour does allow you to create delicate transparencies and there’s something organic and tactile about this.

Do you start from a photograph, or a drawing, or is it more of an intuitive outburst? 

I often use references of photographs that have been manipulated as a starting point — mainly as a reference for shadow and light. At a certain point the reference is discarded and I let the flow of the paint influence the final outcome. Some of the Heads are more literally referenced than others and I do like mix things up and work intuitively as well.

Your artworks are seen digitally through our screens. Do you think the feeling would be the same if we were to see the artworks tangibly? Was that a conscious choice of yours to make your work available through a device? 

Have you had any intention of holding an exhibition of your work and bringing Galerie Phantom into a physical gallery space?

I put a lot of thought into how I would digitise the work for online, but they are physical things that are best viewed in person. I use a lot of metallic paints and subtle textures that you can’t really appreciate on a screen.

BDSM gear is featured too in your work. Where does this interest for masks derive from?

I was interested in the idea of the wearer hiding their identity whilst using the mask to signify a particular role. Some of the gear is more functional, almost treating the head as an object which makes it an interesting subject. On another level, I just think BDSM gear is striking and fun to look at. I want to have fun with what I am doing and allow freedom to explore.

I see there is often a new post from you every day, even though the feed remains with 36 posts. Are you drawing every day and then archiving as you publish?

When I post a new Head I archive another, leaving at the moment 36 on the grid at any one time. I do try to be disciplined and paint everyday although it’s not always possible. There are many more Heads than what I publish, but generally I publish the newly completed ones. The @galeriephantom account is a pinboard for my progress. 

Will we be seeing other types of series? Which other realms would you like to explore? 

There are lots of things I still want to explore with the Heads — I feel like I’m just getting started. There is so much more that can be done with watercolour as well, so stay tuned.


Artworks · Courtesy of the artist

Jon Rafman

Counterfeit Poast, 2022 4K stereo video 23:39 min MSPM JRA 49270 film still

Artificial bestiary for a collapsing present 

The Seventeenth-century Italian philosopher Giambattista Vico argued that history unfolded in cycles, with every period of decay being succeeded by one of growth. According to his view such transitions were guided by the hand of God. Fast forward 300 and counting years and, despite the latter statement sounding rather outdated, this conversation still sparks when contemplating the works of Jon Rafman. 

Although the Canadian-born artist, videographer and essayist is an illustrious face of what, since 2009, has been labelled as Post-Internet art, his works retain a powerful Medieval aura. The same shared by the bestiaries of the Middle Ages, by the haunting dreamlike visions of Hieronymus Bosch, of Dante’s Divine Comedy or Luigi Serafini’s Codex Seraphinianus. But also the street scenes of Flemish paintings, punctuated by a cornucopia of characters sampled from real life and rearranged with moral meanings. As a matter of fact, Rafman recently hosted a performance in which organist Hampus Lindwall live soundtracked one of his films in the evocative setting of the 11th century Swiss Church of Rougemont, as part of Gstaad’s Elevation 1049. 

Rafman’s long-lasting fascination with such iconography actually stems from the present and from his consideration that we’re living through Medieval times. As a society — according to the artist — we are helplessly heading back to a neo-feudal culture in which ‘It feels at times as if the social contract is about to rip apart.To quote Brecht: “Indeed I live in the dark ages! A guileless word is an absurdity”’. 

His oeuvre does no doubt retain an anguishing and disturbing visual element shared by much Medieval art, in which life blended with the realm of fantasy, religion and oral tales. The internet is indeed the closest expression now existing to that approach to world-building and vernacular storytelling, of which one of the greatest examples is Rafman’s Dream Journal, 2016-2019

The occasion to meet the artist comes on the occasion of his exhibition 𝐸𝒷𝓇𝒶𝒽 𝒦’𝒹𝒶𝒷𝓇𝒾 — which reads ‘abracadabra’ — at London Sprüth Magers. 

He is wearing a suit, which may look unexpectedly refined for someone otherwise associated with an iconography made of internet-era American kid bedrooms, with computer keys encrusted with dirt and crisp crumbs, the same he uses to communicate with the press. It is a boxy suit, with cropped wide trousers, as you’d picture an artist in his early forties wearing. 

Despite a broader audience may at first dismiss Rafman’s work as superficial — or even childish — as a consequence of its memetic stance, his words encompass a depth as profound as his carnet of references. They flow with the rapidity of the internet language, and as copious as the amount of work he produces. 

His art is, first of all, rooted in an observation of society, which the Canadian analyses with the critical spirit of a philosopher.
The most stringent issue that seems to equally fascinate and concern him is the fragmentation of contemporary culture and consciousnesses, which since his early works Rafman has been exploring through the creative potential of machine learning processes. His Instagram bio reads, ‘Rarely has reality needed so much to be imagined’, which is exactly what his artworks do. 

AI is the tool that enables him to observe society, like a camera. 

‘I believe that similarly to how photography liberated painting from factual representation, AI image-making has the potential to do something equally revolutionary by forcing art to push itself beyond its own self-perceived boundaries.’ 

Rafman jokes quoting Renoir. ‘Photography freed painting from a lot of tiresome chores, starting with family portraits.’ However, although AI image generation can foster a new culture, he hopes that ‘questions about the broader historical implications on these developments are raised’. 

When looking at some of his latest works — like the Club Angels II and Club Angels III series or Technocrats II — one is left wondering where the line of demarcation between the real and the hyperreal lies. The pieces, which at first appear like painted canvases, feature print AI-generated images to problematise ‘the expected sterility of algorithmically generated images, bringing their abstract digitally into physical materiality’. 

‘That space is where I seek the most interesting territories to explore,’ says Rafman. ‘The virtual and the real represent a dichotomy, but in the world we live in it no longer exists.’ 

According to the artist, the German word aufhebung, which contains opposites, meaning abolition, transcendence, cancellation or fulfilment, informs his practice. ‘In my work, I try to reach a state of aufhebung between bathos and pathos, the ironic and the romantic, the physical and the virtual, and so on. That tension is mobilised in my media choices in the paintings as well.’

This theme emerges in Counterfeit Poast, a film composed of a series of character profiles where AI-generated images are animated using face-tracking iPhone apps, resulting in plausible stories that escalate into the realm of the hyperreal, equally disturbing and witty. To stand out is that of a single man obsessed since his childhood with teen idol Jonathan Brandis, to the point he ends up mystifying reality by forging the actor’s otherwise missing suicidal letter and psycho-physically morphing into Brandis himself. The opus encapsulates all of Rafman’s fascination for all things gravitating between the alienation of the individual and the sense of communal belonging of his chosen iconography. 

In Rafman’s view, the opus ‘paints a portrait of a world where the very grounds of reality have become destabilised, a world where everyone has their own algorithmically tailor-made Reality fed to them.’ 

One can’t truly grasp whether such impossibility to trace a sociologically valid universal theory of present culture concerns Rafman, or whether he thrives on this chaos. Surely, the progressive fragmentation of universal symbols and icons and the increasing ‘niche-isation’ of culture is a reflection at the core of his practice. Especially for someone whose artistic research has been widely based upon permutations of appropriated content, spanning from fine art to mass marketing material. One of his most praised and extended works, 9 Eyes (2009-ongoing), systematically used Google Earth screenshots, for instance. 

‘In the past we had the Church, the Bible, Greek myths and a set of languages that every educated person could understand. Even Andy Warhol’s symbols of language, the post-’50s mono-culture icons of Hollywood, are not available to us anymore. Now you have Twitch and Tik Tok stars, who can make millions but nobody has heard of them. Music is fragmented, every fetish, and every little thing is fragmented. So, I use the Internet language which I think is the closest to universal language we have.’ 

With the frequent sampling of elements of Internet and pop culture, the ethical dilemma of copyright and appropriation may open a multi-faceted debate. However, Rafman’s attitude towards the topic demonstrates how, despite the contemporary relevance of the work, his approach comes a long way. 

‘I’m most curious about the social effects and the revelations they contain about our expectations of art both individually and as a society. When you take a bunch of things and put them together in a new way, that’s not even appropriation; it’s some new hybrid. That’s how culture works, through miscegeny, that’s how new musical genres emerge. Every nationalistic artist movement, for example, would go out into the countryside and look for folk culture and pull from it to elevate it to high culture. These days, it is slightly different because the whole high and low has collapsed. The internet flattens everything. You have 4Chan-style shitposts existing alongside a Renaissance masterpiece without hierarchy.’

In this tension between meta-narratives and lore lies Rafman’s freedom. It is very evident in the Egregore series, three 4k video suites in which images found on the internet are triptychally animated, juxtaposing elements as diverse as a wall clock filled with canned beans and the Garden of Bomarzo. Once again, the vastness of Rafman’s archive of found content echoes the breadth of his references, revealing an artist with many things to say and burning to expand his already immense world-building process. Rafman’s restlessness in giving birth to new works is somehow reminiscent of the overwhelming amount of content daily stratifying on the internet. 

Questioned whether the choice of using a 16:9 screen ratio (the same of the ever so popular Instagram stories and Tik Tok videos) for the series was an attempt to evolve and update his register to the sharing and consumption of content, Rafman replies that, instead, the aim was that of taking a detour from what we associate with movies. ‘My idea was to treat them [the screens] like paintings, whereas when you see a 9:16 monitor you think of it like a film. I constantly have to deal with how to portray popular culture in my work. If you want to depict the present honestly, you have to confront the banality of living life in front of a screen. How do you depict a world dominated by screens, from computers to smartphones? How do you show screens within the screen-space of a film and keep it exciting and engaging? How do you make moving, cinematic work if so much of life takes place inside the impoverished space of the screen world? An exciting challenge as an artist is how to make screens interesting.’

Making Rafman’s art even more fascinating is the fact it unfolds over a highly conflictual field, which is that of the Internet and social media. On one hand it has been used — like in the case of 4Chan — as a countercultural tool to go against the status quo, on the other, the censoring policies of Meta have sanitised the medium, to borrow a Foucault expression. In the eyes of the Canadian, the problems lie in the platforms themselves which become a tool to observe and automatise modern subjectivity. 

‘The internet is not new in these respects, but it exacerbates and reflects all humanity’s worst and best traits. Humans have been ostracising and dividing each other in power struggles for a long time. This condition is being made very transparent on the internet. 

‘The only new system I have seen emerging is the Web3 crypto, which is still very tenuous. We still need to figure out how much influence and power it will have on culture in the long term. I’m curious, though.’ 

The use of elements coming from the culture of the deep web, of shitposting and trolling has nonetheless, over the years, put a stigma over artists like Rafman. This especially happened during the rise of Trumpism, which social media 4Chan and its most notoriously associated meme Pepe The Frog allegedly contributed to. 

‘It is very clear there was a desert period during the Trump era,’ bitterly affirms Rafman, ‘the conversation within the art world shifted, focusing more on identity and portraiture, and now that trend has been exhausted.’ 

‘Just because something is problematic and a challenging subject matter, it doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be investigated and taken seriously, especially if its effects on culture are so profound and create the language of the Internet. Throughout history, artists have explored dark aspects of humanity, but that doesn’t mean they promote them. Instead, they are trying to be truthful and represent the human condition. Some much great art could have never been made if artists weren’t allowed to confront the horrors of existence.’ 

The curatorial status quo, though, seems to have now shifted. What used to be defined as Post-Internet has at last acquired a dignity that it was long stripped of. Rafman is radiant when commenting on the increasing amount of shows his colleagues are having. 

Born in 2009, the movement never truly had a coherent ideology one could associate its artists with, nor a manifesto, although it is explicit the mutual sharing of certain themes and stylistic traits which are both a consequence of and limited by the Internet. Labels can be equally problematic and useful, as they nonetheless offer a source of reflection and a springboard to eventually combat them. Certainly, Rafman’s oeuvre captures the zeitgeist, both in its form and content. After all, its disorientating and thought-provoking element isn’t mere mannerism, but only a consequence of the brutal, conflicting and socially crumbling times we’re experiencing. 

Today’s cancel culture does indeed strike another resemblance with the Middle Ages: the practice of pillorying people to expiate and punish their moral sins. This partially happened to Rafman and the other Post-Internet artists. Will we, at last accept, their social commentary, whether critically savage or disenchanted, or will their art continue to trigger us? That, perhaps, is the question we’re still left with. 


  1. Counterfeit Poast, 2022 (video still) 4K stereo video
    © Jon Rafman
    Courtesy the artist and Sprüth Magers
  2. Counterfeit Poast, 2022 (video still) 4K stereo video
    © Jon Rafman
    Courtesy the artist and Sprüth Magers
  3. Counterfeit Poast, 2022 (video still) 4K stereo video
    © Jon Rafman
    Courtesy the artist and Sprüth Magers
  4. Counterfeit Poast, 2022 (video still) 4K stereo video
    © Jon Rafman
    Courtesy the artist and Sprüth Magers
  5. Counterfeit Poast, 2022 (video still) 4K stereo video
    © Jon Rafman
    Courtesy the artist and Sprüth Magers
  6. 𐤒𐤓𐤀𐤁𐤟𐤀𐤍𐤂𐤋𐤟𐤚
    (Club Angel II), 2022
    Inkjet print and acrylic on canvas
    186.7 × 134.6 cm
    73.5 × 53 inches
    © Jon Rafman
    Courtesy the artist and Sprüth Magers Photo: Robert Wedemeyer
  7. 𐤒𐤓𐤀𐤁𐤟𐤀𐤍𐤂𐤋𐤟𐤚
    (Club Angel II), 2022
    Inkjet print and acrylic on canvas
    186.7 × 134.6 cm
    73.5 × 53 inches
    © Jon Rafman
    Courtesy the artist and Sprüth Magers Photo: Robert Wedemeyer
  8. Punctured Sky, 2021 (video still) 4K video, sound
    21 min © Jon Rafman
    Courtesy the artist and Sprüth Magers

George Rouy

Abstraction and distortion in art come out intuitively to George Rouy along with human emotions and relationships

In his earlier artworks, George Rouy would paint elongated facial features for the wide bodies of his subjects. He would stretch the figures on the canvas through his strokes, and at times, have them sit or stand side-by-side as if conversing.

Then, around 2021, a shift took place.

Gone are the visible features of the face, replaced by intentional marks and lines guided by the haze of the moment, his creative spirit being summoned to life. Smudges of paint brush against a mosaic of splatters. Flecks of color shower dedicated spaces on the canvas. The figures still appear visible, yet invisible at the same time. They might be tall or short. Their genders, androgynous. They are colliding, manipulating the viewers first, then they sync, re-arranging themselves like puzzle pieces and letting their viewers know everything falls into place in the end. Rouy, an aficionado of abstraction, has transitioned, and he is introducing an evolution of his artistic practice.

The bodies in Rouy’s artworks evoke an innate sense of connectivity and transcendence. They trespass the realms of the physical and the beyond, almost anchoring an indescribable reason they visually came into sight in the first place. They might be five different characters Rouy brewed in his mind, but they could also be an individual with five versions of themselves. Deciphering the intention of Rouy’s paintings depends on the viewers, but the artist creates a two-way channel in his works. For every painting the viewers see, Rouy seems to ask them to trust him with their deep-seated thoughts, emotions, and fears and let him paint them through his style. For every painting he creates, Rouy stirs human sensations until he delivers.

NR wants to learn more about the psychedelic nature of Rouy’s works and mind, the desire that powers the artist to pick up his brush and lose himself in the moment of painting. When we caught up with the artist, he was in the middle of finishing some artworks for his next show. He would be flying out of the UK in the next couple of days, leaving the 12 paintings he was working on simultaneously for a while inside his studio in Kent, London. At one point, Rouy tells us he paints intuitively. He scraps off planning and gears toward illustrating what feeds his mind, whether based on his experiences or observations. Somehow, themes of interactive relationships, self-growth, therapy, and psychology bubble up and simmer in his paintings. These nuances might be implied, but one can see how they linger in Rouy’s works, drawing in whoever lays their eyes upon his paintings and locking them in there.

At first, NR wanted to ask Rouy whether he had always wanted to be an artist, then move along wherever the conversation would take us. But even before we asked him the question, Rouy had already let us in on what he would be doing in the next few days. A lot of it involved traveling, ruminating, finding breathing space, and looking at his artworks as he sits or stands before them, idling. The moment he spilled all these thoughts, we shifted our questions, inverted-pyramid style. From the role of energy in his artworks to the culmination of his present style, Rouy talked us through his artistry, influences, and life as an artist, revealing parts of himself that might be under wraps from the public’s eye. 

We started with his travels.

Does consistent traveling affect your creative process? 

I think yes. What I have found over the years of doing this is that I have times of concentration or intense work then a break. I have found that my creative process works a lot better now where I relentlessly paint all the way through before I try to find breathing space. For instance, I have solidly worked for a month now, and I will be taking a few weeks off just to ruminate and process. Then, I will come back and look at my works with fresh eyes. I see what I have done objectively and more since I have taken off some emotions and am now able to see what needs to change or shift. In that respect, traveling works well. 

I also often find myself preparing for a show, so it is good to have the works just sitting in the studio for quite a while, just to live with them. They can breathe and have their own life without me working relentlessly on them all the time.  

What is your breathing space? Do you intentionally create your own breathing space, or do you just do random activities? 

Walking, for instance, on a day-to-day basis is breathing space. Strolling in the countryside is a great way for me to process parts of the day, especially in the summertime. I find it harder to find my breathing space in winter because of the lack of light – it is always dark when I leave the studio – but I love to think of other ways to take some time off. Currently, I am between here (Kent) and Paris.

In Paris, I work more on the computer, study my art, and think about where the series is at. I was there a month ago looking at the paintings I already had in the studio, took photographs of them, then looked at them through Photoshop, just to process everything in a different way. Then, I am just actively looking at my works, and I think it is important. The act of looking also takes up time since my paintings become jigsaw puzzles, and I try to work out the next parts. Sometimes, it just does not quite click at the moment, so I let it simmer for a while before looking at it again. 

I have come to a point where I need to take some time off and come back to the studio once I feel rested because I get so caught up in the energy.

“I think painting is about having and regaining this energy and preserving the excitement, impulse, movement, vibrance, and emotions, especially because the works become a lot more abstract in areas.”

These works also need a sense of clarity, so I am trying to find and maintain that as much as I can. When I have a few to 12 paintings at the same time in my studio, I often jump from one artwork to another, so the energy gets transferred quite easily. I am conscious that when I quickly shift, things stagnate, or when I work on one painting for too long, something sucks the magic out of the artwork. It loses the spell it once had. 

Since you put it in this way, does painting ever get overwhelming for you? 

There is this idea that you have higher expectations of yourself at times, and you are constantly searching for more discoveries, so you never get quite content with the discoveries that you have already found. I think the overwhelming part is to maintain these high standards of and by self. When you reflect or get to a point when you look at some of the works you did that you felt successful, you look back to how you did in the past.

It is not that you are trying to top or match them, but I think this is where it gets overwhelming, when these successes are not happening now. When this happens, you push through it – you work through it until things reveal themselves.  It is like when we plant a seed, it takes time before the plant fully grows. 

I notice that some of the facial features of your subjects are blurred. Is that intentional? 

The faces anchor the work and the composition. They can also be a distraction that ultimately defines the work – it is about having the right amount of purpose to them. I am into abstraction, and the blurred faces break emotions and sensations by delivering physical marks in the painting. When I start to apply them, I begin to see that everything becomes emphasized while they also contradict each other. The face is about having blurred moments of life, and having these pushed out in distorted ways allow the works to have the same breadth. 

Sometimes, it is hard to explain. They just have an energy about them and a certain feel that is not of this earth – it is not from here. It is not even photographic. There is a clear distinction between these faces when they appear right, but when they do not, there is this balance between the ugly and the beautiful – transcendence and out of this world. These days, I am more into computer-generated faces or AI and the historical representation of a figure within a sculpture. Here, I can distort the face, making them heightened versions of humans. I also think about the idea of distortion or blurring as something that is not quick, but a time-based movement that links with the rest of the marks in the painting. They turn out to have the same amount of flow and energy.  

Would you say then that your paintings are energy-based? 

Not entirely energy-based, but they have an awareness of the physical in terms of their anatomy, time, and movement. So, the act of distortion can be hidden – you cannot quite tell how long strokes took or where the moment began. Other things can be visible such as the dancing figures in some paintings. 

I notice that you often use lush or dark colors for your paintings. Do you resonate well with the dark palette or do you have any intentions in the near future to shift to bright tones? 

Some of them have become brighter, but gray still is important in my work in terms of it sitting between the realms of dark and light and how it can emphasize contrast and complement well with the shades I use. I also like how gray can have different hues like pink gray or greenish gray.

I also notice that you have a lot of bodies on your canvas. How did you arrive at this point that you wanted to turn bodies into the subjects of your art?

It is an uplifting movement for me to have these bodies in my work a sense of connectivity and purpose – of flow, movement, and rhythm. I would say I am someone who has been into exploring figurative painting and how to achieve a painting that has multiple figures in it without giving a headache. I think about the figures as organisms who could be versions of themselves. There could be two people but split up into five figures. It is less about a collective, but a depiction of those you know in a space or non-space.

On the other hand, their meaning depends on how the viewers perceive them. Sometimes, the viewers place themselves in the realm that I created. Other times, they deem my paintings as romantic and soft. There is always an underlying intention to these figures and how they interact. Then, there is also this feeling of morphing, a shaping of an internal representation, of one’s psyche or being, and I think these are massively involved in my works. We are living in this life full of intricacies as an individual and as a collective, and I am thinking about these internal pressures, whether that is beauty, ego, or something else. Similar to how we show other people love or compassion, we have these intricacies that form part of who we are.

I did a painting last year called Shit Mirror (2021), and it was on how you can perceive yourself one day and have a good feeling about yourself then the next day, you have a completely different representation or idea of yourself. It is erratic when it comes to the human mind, and I try to represent it with marks, movement, and contradictions because ultimately, nothing is static. I think we live in a world where maybe we have the ideas of what and who we are, those that we think are set in stone or in one journey, then we realize they are endlessly moving.

In this matter, do you think psychology and the study of self are two of the many factors that have helped you develop or pursue your style today?

I have gone through a large amount of therapy and have to dig deep into parts of my own self-growth that there have been a lot of things I have had to tap into with myself that naturally comes out in the work I do today. I have always had this keen interest in these features of my experiences, and being able to express some of them, even hint at or allow them to just be present there, feels resonating.

I think you sometimes get forced into doing a lot of self-growth. In my case, there has been a lot of digging into internal beliefs, both rational and irrational, and they appear over time or I generate them. Then, they distort the sense of self and what is my reality in relation to other things. I have dug deep into layers of my deep-seated fears too, and I think when we start to embrace and understand these, we allow ourselves to push deeper into those areas of our mind and sensation.

Do you have any other sources of influences? 

My work is so intuitive. I can go away and experience experiences, but the ideas that I have just sit in the periphery and do not fully sit in. It is not like I am going to do a painting about this or that, no. It all just comes out in an intuitive way. Also, being around other people and having interactive relationships are important too. I often spend time on my own, painting figures. From there, I have these two extremes where I spend so much time on my own – I also live on my own – and doing these paintings about figures of human interactions and about human sensations. All of them are intense experiences to live through which then can be parts of my influences.

Have you always wanted to be an artist, then?

Absolutely. Being an artist and painting have always been my natural ways to communicate. They have never felt like a struggle. School was hard for me since it was difficult express myself through drawing and art even though they felt natural to me.

“I have always wanted to be an artist, but it was challenging to tell that to my teachers because one needs to understand how to be and what it is to be an artist to fully understand the life of it.”

It has been a huge process, overall, and I am very lucky to be doing this.

Do you have any artistic rituals before you paint?

Yes, I have got rituals. I do some exercise in the morning and in the evening. Then, I go for a walk after painting in the studio (if there is light outside). I make sure I do not work overtime. Then, I have a bath every night because I am normally covered in paint, so having a bath every night is a moment – my moment. So, not many rituals, I think.

How do your immediate surroundings influence your artistic practice today?

Living on my own, going at my own pace with everything, and not being in London were massive shifts in how I operate. There is a lot more consideration and pace that is not rushed anymore unlike in London where I had always felt urgency. Now, it is more just about looking, taking everything in from my surroundings. The thing is that in London, I would commute to the studio, step inside, and tell myself “I have to paint now.” It was a lot frantic. Whereas here in Kent, I could just come here, do a little bit of painting, and sit and look at them. Sometimes, maybe even not paint and just look at them. This is where the surrounding influences come in.


Talent · George Rouy
Photography · Markn and Brigita Žižytė
Fashion · Emma Simmonds
Creative Direction · Jade Removille
Special thanks to Rosie Fitter and Thibault Geffrin at Almine Rech


  1. T shirt Vintage LAURA ASHLEY at LONDON.VINTAGE, paint splattered jeans and shoes George’s own, boxer shorts SUNSPEL and all jewellery George’s own
  2. Vintage YVES SAINT LAURENT wool suit at GASOLINE RAINBOWS, shoes CHURCH’S and jewellery George’s own
  3. Dress, archive GHARANI STROK at THE ARC
  4. Jewellery George’s own
  5. Vintage YVES SAINT LAURENT wool suit trousers at GASOLINE RAINBOWS and belt, shoes and jewellery George’s own
  6. T-shirt in red ribbed jersey, archive HELMUT LANG AW1997 at ENDYMA and classic tailored trousers in polished calfskin, archive HELMUT LANG AW2000 at ENDYMA, crystal drop earrings Stylist’s own, shoes CHURCH’S and all jewellery George’s own
  7. Vintage YVES SAINT LAURENT wool suit trousers at GASOLINE RAINBOWS and belt, shoes and jewellery George’s own
  8. Leather shirt and trousers BOTTEGA VENETA and all jewellery George’s own
  9. T-shirt in red ribbed jersey, archive HELMUT LANG AW1997 at ENDYMA and crystal drop earrings Stylist’s own
  10. Archive HELMUT LANG SS 2004 cut out Nipple tank at ENDYMA, Archive HELMUT LANG 1998 Painter Jeans at NDWC0 Archive, Paint splattered shoes and jewellery George’s own
  11. Black wool suit BOTTEGA VENETA
  12. Archive JUNYA WATANABE, SS 2002, Poem shirt at NDWC0 Archive. Black jersey strappy top, archive ALEXANDER MCQUEEN SS2002 ‘Dance of the Twisted Bull’ at THE ARC, classic tailored trousers in polished calfskin, archive HELMUT LANG AW2000 at ENDYMA, shoes CHURCH’S and all jewellery George’s own.
  13. Vintage YVES SAINT LAURENT wool suit trousers at GASOLINE RAINBOWS and belt, shoes and jewellery George’s own

Carmine Romano

Staying behind the camera to capture the rawness of emotions

A man of few words, photographer Carmine Romano prefers to hold the camera and point the lens to his subjects rather than be the subject himself. In doing so, he captures the rawness of the Italian lifestyle and living, often becoming an observer of a scene rather than the participant. His images overflow with the nuances of serendipity and home, charged with liberation and a promise of self-expression. With NR, the photographer displays the exclusive space he has carved for himself, a realm where his clipped sentences weigh a thousand ideas.

NR: There is a documentative sense in your photography. Do you view your style the same way – a documentary? Whenever you capture the images of people, it feels as if you are photographing their real selves. Is the rawness of people the emotion you want to capture?

CR: Yes. I feel that my style leans more towards a documentary-like photography than fashion photography. My goal is to capture people the way they are at the moment, trying to seal their authenticity.

Going back to your roots in photography, what was the first photograph you captured? Do you still have this image with you? Do you keep tabs on the development of your photography?

The first image that I always keep in mind is a picture that I took when I was ten. I took a photograph of the oldest man in my neighborhood in Napoli, who was an artisan that repaired old shoes. I do not know if it was the first pics I ever captured, but of course, it is that one that I  have always treasured with me.

The influence of family seems alive in your photographs. How essential is family to you? Do you believe in the phrase blood is thicker than water?

In my photography, the influence of my family and the good values that my parents taught to me are always essential to me, so yes –

“I think we should never forget where we came from.”

Carmine Romano

Aside from family, the essence of community comes through your images. From gatherings to sharing stories over meals, you seem to have a penchant for togetherness. What lessons in life have you learned from your community? Is it important for you to belong in a community? 

Nowadays, it is important to me to interact. In a society where everyone is behind a digital screen, meeting people, sharing moments and emotions with them, and having conversations with them are important. I think that we do not have to forget that we are humans, and we need to keep our contact solid, perhaps doing it over lunch or dinner for instance.

For you to capture portraits, I can imagine that you have to form a bond with the person you are photographing. What do you tell them before, during, and after the shoot? Who has been the most memorable subject so far? Also, do you believe you chance upon the emotions, settings, and looks of your photographs, or do you instruct and arrange them before the shoot?

Exactly. Before shooting a person, I always try to learn and understand them; to be with them in order to comprehend who they are. I try to establish a relationship with them, and I love listening to them and trying to understand how they feel.

I prefer to do it before, without a camera, and then come back to shoot. The most memorable subject to me was Rita, an old woman in my neighborhood who, after few meetings, she showed me her best, meaning who she is, in the picture.

From here,

“I think there is always a scene to capture for those who know where to seek and how to find it.”

Whenever you feel like taking a break from photography, how do you recharge? How do you celebrate your life outside the camera? Then, how do you celebrate la dolce vita through photography? Is there a place in Italy that you have not yet been to before but would love to visit soon?

To recharge, I travel to different cities and often go to the sea to watch the horizon and the waves. La dolce vita through photography has to be celebrated from a vision – a personal interpretation even. In Italy, I love going back to Sicily. 

Would you say that you are a private person? I am only asking because I wonder if you will allow another photographer to capture what your everyday life looks like.

Yes, I am a very private person. Usually, I only post overviews of my private life, not its entirety. I do not like the idea of being on the other side of the camera.


Images · Carmine Romano

Andrés Reisinger

Experimenting with boundaries until the intangible becomes tangible

Testing the limits of the boundaries communities and self impose shapes the utopia Andrés Reisinger aspires to manifest. His visual artistry intersects art, design, music, architecture, fashion, and beyond, always moving along the waves of culture and never settling for anything marked as conventional. The results give birth to the manifestation of a hybrid reality, one where the intangible becomes tangible. The duality of the physical and digital realms, the fruition and transition from a blueprint to reality, the faces of strangeness and their unearthly appeal, and the celebration of a newborn: everything moves in and out of Reisinger’s creative ethos.

NR: The first thing that caught my attention was your title on Instagram: Unclassifiable Artist. Does this indicate the millions of ideas you want to test and of creative endeavors you want to venture to?

AR: I would agree with that. I have been inspired by the Argentine writer Borges, who was also Unclassifiable. I am focused on constant self-improvement, constant experimentation, constant development; wherever it takes me.

My task is to keep discovering and introducing new mediums of work and ways of experiencing art and design. So, my practice cannot be easily classified, because it is not something that I can fully classify yet, and I probably never will.

As an artist, how essential is it to be multidisciplinary? Do you think a creative should focus on a single discipline in art?

My work is based on pushing the boundaries between the digital and the physical realms to achieve hybridity. In this sense, I consider and love visual culture as a whole, essential in all of its  declinations. There are incredibly interesting intersections that we are seeing and can be further developed between art, design, music, architecture, fashion and so on, and my work is heavily focused on context rather than by piece. Only by mixing different ideas and connecting them will we create new ones.

From Argentina to Barcelona, how do the cultures and communities in these countries – and the others you have been to – influence the way you conceive your works? Can your viewers see the nuances of these cultures in what you create?

Most of the places I have lived in are in South Europe, so my works are heavily influenced by culture from the countries here. These places, for many reasons, have been central social territories, which is something that has influenced my approach to creation and the way I have been sharing my journey on the internet since the very beginning of my career (approximately 15 years ago when I started with digital art and design). I have always felt the need to share the way I see the world.

Let us talk about your works. I want to start with An Essay Before Meeting my Daughter. Congratulations, first of all! How do you feel about being a father? How did you celebrate it? Did you feel worried or excited?

I felt all sorts of emotions. It is an experience that cannot be truthfully described or translated. It feels like I am flourishing. It is a novel way of looking at the world. It is an excellent way to cultivate perspective. The way you manage your time, your ideas, and your instincts: they all grow. It is a great challenge in life. It is amazing, and I love it.

Continuing this, you wrote: Anxiety, nervousness, happiness, fears, beloved moments, all that are absorbed and expressed through my artistic lens. Could you guide us on the metaphors of this piece, from the rolling apples to the flipping pages of the books?

The piece was the result of a long reflective process. I wanted to gather and somehow express all the feelings and thoughts that guided these moments of my life, and the piece came very spontaneously as the emotions naturally channeled themselves into form.

With The Shipping, it is the manifestation of a new hybrid reality concerning furniture. How do you envision the future of design in furniture? Would technology replace manual labor?

“I see it as a hybrid of digital and physical; the encounter between the two is already offering an overwhelming amount of possibilities.”

And although it might seem a very futuristic scenario to some, we already spend a third of our days connected to any device screen. We are undoubtedly living in a time where our physical lives are and will continue to be more and more integrated with the digital realm. And as we get more comfortable living in these different spaces, we will get more and more used to owning things and living there.

There are of course differences between the two realities that will never compensate each other. Technology will make things earlier in production, that is for sure, although I cannot say which mode is easier. One thing I can say is that creating a digital chair – such as Hortensia, Tangled, Complicated Sofa, or Crowded Elevator – was the most difficult thing I have ever attempted. Technology can help us do more creative work and less mechanical procedures. Artisans will always exist, and they will benefit from new technologies.

I love the backstory behind The Hortensia Armchair, from having been a concept to a real seat! What made this project challenging? How did you take on the challenge? Did you learn anything from this experience life- and design-wise?

Because it was such a complex design to realize, I was doubting whether to invest time and money to bring the chair to life, so I guess the challenge was against myself. I am incredibly glad that I decided to go for it.

What I am most proud of is that the Hortensia Chair created digital demand before the supply, which is a total disruption within the design industry. We were able to build an interest around a digital object that seemed almost impossible to realize and gave life to it first through a limited edition and then with Moooi in a more affordable version.

It was an interesting phenomenon to witness, with regards to sustainability, most especially. We did not launch another project, hoping for the market to accept it. We created the need first digitally. It showed to design and other companies that this is definitely a possibility.

Continuing the previous question, what do you do when you want to make the impossible possible? Have you ever felt like dropping a project halfway? What made you continue it?

I work with context and try to, in part, deform reality to achieve a surreal atmosphere. That uncanniness between reality and fiction, digital and physical is to make the impossible possible. I do not want my work to be too explicit, or it would defeat its purpose. If it is too blatantly strange, it is instantly dismissed, but if it is not so strange but just enough, it is instantly absorbed into everyday reality. I strive for a slight strangeness leaving the viewers disoriented.

Generally, challenges inspire me, so I have rarely thought about dropping a project halfway.

“If I recognize the possibility of discovering a new production methodology, a pioneering approach within the physical and digital, I will strive to see it through as I know I will learn a lot during the process.”

As we focus on Celebration for this issue, how do you feel about what you have achieved so far in this lifetime?

I am proud, I am humbled, and I am projected into my practice.

Is there anything that we should be celebrating with you in the upcoming weeks?

In mid-January, I presented Winter House, a residential project in the metaverse inspired by the frosty season. It is an important one I would  like to celebrate as it represents the preliminary project of an architecture studio for the metaverse I am establishing with other partners. There will be more – a lot more – but 2022 has just started.


Images · Andrés Reisinger

Nina Raasch – Fabiana Vardaro


Photography · NINA RAASCH

The Ranch Mine

“Our identity is the fuel behind the best design and architecture”

Architectural studio The Ranch Mine draw inspiration from the rich history of the pioneers who settled in their local state of Arizona in search of a better life. “We chose our name to honour those that have come before us, the humble ranchers and miners, who have paved the way for our opportunities for prosperity today, and to serve as inspiration to design spaces that afford us the opportunity to imagine what’s beyond what we see in the present so we can strive for new experiences.”

In 2018 The Ranch Mine was approached by a family who owned a large plot of land in Phoenix, Arizona to create a home “in which their family could grow and create.” One member of the family is a ceramic artist and The Ranch Mine drew inspiration from the ancient art of pottery when designing the property. The name Foo House is derived from the Chinese character ‘Fu’, which means good fortune and luck, as a nod to the client’s Chinese heritage.

Phoenix is located in the northeastern reaches of the Sonoran desert and is known as The Valley of the Sun. With dusty-grey board marked concrete, orange weathering steel, and shades of olive and cream Foo House embodies the spirit of the desert with a sprawling and airy design. NR Magazine joins The Ranch Mine in conversation.

How do you think identity informs design and architecture?

We believe that identity is both the reason for design and architecture and the result of design and architecture. Our identity is the fuel behind the best design and architecture. Architecture is a reflection of who we are, our time, our place, and our culture. Who we are and how we live shapes the form and function of the spaces we create. What is really fascinating to us is that who we are is inextricable from where we have been and where we are. We shape the built environment, and it, in turn, shapes us. This is why it is critical to continue to infuse the identity of people into spaces, and design for opportunities to grow beyond who we are and what we see today.

Foo House is influenced by the ancient art of pottery. How did this factor into the design specifically?

We are fascinated with history and love how pottery has played a critical role in most societies in human history as well as our modern-day understanding of those societies. So we broke down what makes pottery interesting to us, and how could we take those principles to inform a new piece of architecture. The design emerged as a home that is rigid in structure while malleable in use, precise in form while imperfect in texture, and varied in volume while limited in materials.

Are there any new technologies in architecture that you are particularly excited about?

One of the most exciting things about architecture is the development of building science, and how we can use new materials to improve tried and true ancient ways of living. The newest technology that we are excited about is a company based here in Phoenix called Source that has created a hydropanel that is the first renewable drinking water system. It creates drinking water from the air through the use of solar energy. Living in a desert where water is a precious resource, this is very exciting to us.

Given the issues of rising temperatures around the globe and the location of Foo House was this something you had to consider when conceptualising the architectural design of the property?

Phoenix is definitely at the forefront of dealing with extremely high temperatures and has been for a while. Studying the sun, the most powerful element here is where all our designs begin. Foo was designed as a large courtyard house that follows the sun’s day arc, shielding the interior from times of extreme heat. Courtyard houses have been effective ways of living in the desert dating back 5000 years to Kahun in Egypt and possibly earlier. They are self-shading, providing a space to either embrace or escape the sun at all times of day throughout the year.

Other than the ancient art of pottery were there was there any other influences or inspirations that you drew on when working on this project?

We always draw inspiration from our clients, who in this case were a very “hands-on” family, starting with their professions but leading to their kids playing musical instruments, gardening and raising chickens, and making robots. We wanted to go beyond just making a pottery studio and maker space to satisfy the “what” of the scope. We wanted to build on the essence of these items and make an entire home that reflected their family values. So the design uses a combination of the hand made and materials meant to patina and change over time, in an aesthetic some might consider wabi-sabi, that embraces the journey, the imperfections of hand made, and the transitory nature of our world. The other major inspiration in every project is the site, and its location in this world. We are fortunate to have incredible weather for the majority of the year in Phoenix. While the headlines talk about the high heat which can be intense, about 7-8 months a year you can basically live outside.

We wanted to create a home that everywhere you are in the house has a direct relationship with the exterior, and we wanted to create a lot of different types of connections, not just one big opening. The main living space has double-height glazing that faces north towards the courtyard. It has sliding glass doors that open it out onto the covered patio towards the outdoor kitchen, fire pit, and pool beyond. It also has a lofted area that provides skyline views to the south and views of the Phoenix mountain preserve to the north. It provides a different perspective of the landscape. We also created glass connectors between the volumes of the house, so the landscape sort of tucks in around the house, and you are constantly aware of it as you walk from one area of the house to the next. The bedroom wing has smaller openings that frame the olive grove or high windows that look towards the sky. Using exposed aggregate concrete blurred the transition as you step outside and areas where the glass is fixed, the new desert landscape comes right up to it.

What were some of the challenges you faced when working on Foo House and how did you overcome them?

The first challenge is that the house is located in a pretty busy urban area, less than a half-mile from 10+ story towers. To create an oasis-like refuge, we shaped the building to create a large central courtyard, using the building to shield the areas that faced the busy part of the city. The second challenge was overcoming the fact that buildings are generally by their nature static. We wanted to find a way to activate the house to meet the dynamism of the family and their passions. Our approach to doing this was two-pronged. The first was to design the building to be noticeably affected by time. We did this by using materials that would patina like the rusting siding or soften the board-formed concrete joints as well as using vertical floor to ceiling windows that face due south that act like sundials throughout the day. This is most noticeable where we shifted the hallway around the stairwell and added a steel brise soleil to highlight the solar pattern in the hallway. The second way we did this was by creating a campus-like plan, where you walk through communal spaces, outside and inside to get to more specific places. This creates casual exchanges.

When creating a family home like Foo House what are some important aspects to bear in mind?

When creating a family home, the first thing people often think of designing for is durability. While this is of course important, it is not the main driving factor for us. When designing family homes we focus on flexibility over time, spaces that inspire creativity, and a variety of spaces in which you can connect with each other, with extended family and with friends, as well as opportunities to disconnect.

The site contains a chicken coop, a citrus grove, a stone fruit grove, and raised planting beds for growing herbs and vegetables. Are there any other methods of sustainability used on the property?

The house is designed to primarily use stack ventilation in the bedrooms and main living area to use the diurnal temperature swings to help passively cool the house. The house opens up primarily to the north for indirect natural light and uses the height of the volumes to shade exterior spaces for outdoor living. The U-shaped form of the house creates a large courtyard, creating a bit of a microclimate. The roofing is a combination of white-coloured foam or corrugated metal to reflect the radiant heat from the sun. The property used to be almost entirely grass and we changed it to primarily desert and native vegetation on drip irrigation, heavily reducing the water consumption on the property in combination with low flow water fixtures throughout.

What advice do you have for young creatives looking to work in architecture?

Find out who you are first. Then put that out into the world. Once you do it will attract people you want to work with. You are uniquely you. Your identity is your gift to the world, it is the one thing you do better than everyone else. Share it.

Are you working on any projects at the moment and what are your plans for the future?

We have about 30 residential projects in the works currently. We are excited that about 1/3 of those projects have taken us into new climates, new states, and outside of the country. Each new location continues to hone our research practices and understanding of place.

Our plans for the future are focused on continuing to grow our residential practice, designing homes that expand people’s creative potential and liberate them from the confines of convention. We look forward to more projects locally as well as projects that take us to new places, new people, and introduce new challenges.

Jurga Ramonaite


Casting · MC BARNES


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