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Spotlight: Reuben Dangoor

Fine art, Fam.

East London artist Reuben Dangoor has been making a lot of noise in the art world since dropping his portraits of grime legends as part of his debut collection “Legends of the Scene”. The collection received global coverage and led to Reuben showing this collection at Tate Britain for his debut show. Exploring old traditional oil paintings in a digital new age style using modern day people and objects, he is ready to drop part two of his ‘Holy Trainerity’ series.

If it’s good enough for Tate Britain, it’s good enough for The Basement. I chilled with Reuben ahead of his exhibition in The Basement at Crepe City to get an insight into the guy behind the art.

How did you get into painting?

I’ve been drawing for as long as i can remember, but it’s only been the last few years that i’ve been experimenting with this particular style of imagery.

How long have you been a Grime fan?
Probably from early 2000’s (2001-2003). All the way through school, some really seminal work was being released by kids only a bit older than me. Dizzee’s Boy in the Corner came out, Ruff Squad were killing it, Ms Dynamite dropped Boo, Kano dropped P’s n Q’s. Huge records that still shutdown shows now. So it felt like I was growing up as the scene was growing.
Three Cheers To The Pensmith by Reuben Dangoor
Why did you pick Grime as the focus for your first released collection?
Mainly it came about from being a fan. I’ve wanted to do something to celebrate Grime as the subject for a while. Grime’s now at that amazing point where it has a rich history and and serious interest in it’s story. It’s all about legacy.
With a huge renewed interest in Grime and new audiences, (some of whom weren’t even born when it began), I thought it was important to commemorate some of the fore fathers of the genre. It felt like a little twist on the way someone might hang huge old oil paintings of their famous ancestors above a fireplace in some manor house in the country.
Knight Rider by Reuben Dangoor (Legends of the Scene)
You’re work seems to have a colonial/imperial influence. Why the fusion with Grime?
Grime is a proper British art form, and I just liked the idea of combining a few of the stereotypical views of England and old school Britishness and turn it on it’s head. With the Grime MC’s, they are flying the flag now for the country in a relevant way.
Those particular styles of oil paintings where often full of little signs and symbols that told you who the person was and what they were all about, their status / achievements etc. Those paintings were of ‘important’ people and for me and lots of others these guys are legends. I felt it worked really well with the individual MC’s , highlighting things about who they are, songs they’ve made, maybe the area they are from. That way fans would be able to spot all the little details and in jokes.
Your new work centers on trainers. Why did you pick kicks as your focus?
Initially it was just an experiment. On Air Max day this year, rather than post a picture of my trainers, I thought it’d be cool to create an image of one of my favourite kicks, the historical Air Max 95. It got a really nice response, and decided to continue with a few of my favourites and models that I felt had that same history and legacy that the Grime project had. The two cultures are closely linked and it’s just felt like a natural extension of the idea.
Nike Air Max 95
What’s your favourite pair that you own?
One of my favourite trainers of all time are the OG Airmax 95 with the neon green.
Day to day though I’m a simple man, I’ve been buying high top Reebok classics forever, probably my favourite everyday trainer.
What’s next for you? Have you got anything else in the pipeline at the moment?
I want to finish the last in the Holy Trainerty series now the first two are done. I’m working on the next Legends of the Scene piece having just dropped the Kano potrait. I’ve just decided who i’m basing the next one on, so i’m hyped about that. I’ve started a series called Still Life Still, the first piece is called MUNCH and I did an edition of 10 hand finished prints too so I’m starting to experiment more with hand finishing stuff.

Reuben’s work will be on display in The Basement at Crepe City. Make sure to stop by to check out the iconic work in person, and grab a print too.

Words by Alex Ropes.