As you’ll read here, it’s easy to tell how passionate Rob Lee is about the world of art and his own place in it. His pieces span whole walls, but each detail is accounted for, and calculated, in its visual effect and its desired expression. Who better to help us celebrate the tenth anniversary of the magazine with a brand new mural right here in the city?

What have you been up to since we last featured you in 2014?

Generally working commissions of all shapes and sizes. I went full time in 2016, which was really tough because I didn’t have much money and all the commissions I had lined up all fell through for whatever other reason. Earning a living doing what you love is extremely difficult, but Jesus H Science is it rewarding. I’ve painted some huge walls, pushed and challenged myself on every one. It seems I’m actually addicted to making things difficult. I’ve been pretty busy, but there’s so much more to do.

Tell us about the Now Then mural you’ve been working on.

We’re celebrating ten years of Now Then, aren’t we?! ‘Now Then, Then Now’ is a play on words. Simply switching the words gives an entirely different meaning. There cannot be a present without the past. The wall and location gave me the opportunity to progress my style further, allowing my inspirations of brutalist and modernist architecture to come through. Combining this with perspective anamorphosis, the intention is to fully transform the perspectives of the wall. I’ve never spent as long in the design stage as I have on this project.

You mentioned in our last interview that your ambition was to create works which fused techniques in order to create new abstractions. Have you come closer to achieving this?

I feel I have, yes. I’m following a path I started at uni, when I experimented with 2D design, screen-printing, 2D animation, then 3D computer graphics modelling and animation. When I started out creating murals, I worked solely in 2D, but then slowly started to introduce more three-dimensional effects. Then when learning perspective anamorphosis, this allowed me to create fully 3D effects through optical illusion.

Working with pattern I’ve developed a fascination with perception. I often create optical effects by accident, when playing with different colours, spacing, angles, tints or shades. The simplicity of repetition is pleasing to the human eye. When optical effects are introduced it questions how we perceive, because the human eye is simply an organ transmitting information to our brainiums.

I’m really excited for the time when I can give commissions a break and fully immerse myself in creating a body of work. I’ve many ideas I’ve not even touched upon yet.

Do you find Sheffield as a city, literally or culturally, complements or contrasts with your style?

I’d hope that it complements. My work is definitely inspired by Sheffield, physically and culturally. Through working for this long as an artist, the straight lines, angles and curved edges have become like a visual language for me, with the straight lines representing man and technology and the curves representing nature. The patterns represent a fusion of the two, like a vision of a utopian future where if we worked in harmony with nature and used our technology only for good, there might be no war, no famine, no pollution, no end of the world. I believe humanity would thrive and prosper for millennia then.

I generally always crop the patterns on the walls or canvases I paint them on, suggesting what we see is only a tiny snapshot of something much larger, like the fabric of life itself. I’m aware it’s pretty different to what you normally see on the streets though, so I can only hope it’s appreciated.

What does the foreseeable future hold for you and your work?

I’ve a few fun commissions in the pipeline, some very exciting ones which are yet to be fully confirmed, and an exciting venture to Greece imminent. It’s pretty funny really. I’ve been saying this for over two years now, but my main aim is to be able to give commissions a break to fully concentrate on creating a body of work, which I guess would be when I’d exhibit. Other than this, I’m just excited to see what’s round the corner, as experience has taught me that anything can happen.

Rob’s Now Then mural can be found on the corner of Howard St and Arundel St in the city centre. A special thank you goes to Sheffield Hallam University for providing the wall and helping at all stages of the process.

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Photo by Andy Brown

Liam Casey