Interview with Johnny Romeo

Johnny Romeo is an Australian artist acclaimed for his ability to mix text, explosive colour, and Pop savvy imagery into a style called “Neo Expressionist Pop.” Considered Australia’s leading Pop painter, Romeo fuses Neo-Expressionism and street art with a Pop edge to address issues of pop culture, celebrity fetish and consumerism. Romeo is represented by many of Australia’s top galleries, and has had a number of consecutive sell-out exhibitions across Australia, New Zealand and the US. His work has been covered in publications such as the Sydney Morning Herald, Australian Art Collector and the Australian Art Review. Romeo has completed a collaborative work with world-renowned punk band Blink-182, and was featured in the URBAN POP II survey in Los Angeles. 

Hi Johhny, today you selected for MoW 4 of your artworks inspired by music. Can you tell MoW why you chose those music artists ? What was the music behind the artworks ? What inspired you to create them ?

Pop culture has always fascinated and intrigued me. It constantly inspires me. Music is so much a part of pop culture. I’ve grown up listening to music.  This aural energy is so important to my painting process.  I’m also inspired by periods in music and places. For instance, I spend a lot of time in Los Angeles in particular Sunset Boulevard. The Strip intrigues me. I take a lot of motivation from it. The Rock clubs and nightclubs… to know that so many great musicians have played there. This inspires my work.

Why is music important to you and your art? 

Music is all about sound and silence. Painting is all about action and reaction. They somehow work together and feed off each other. My actions are often motivated by music and song lyrics.

If you had to choose between the artworks presented today, which of your artwork would be your favorite ? And why ?

Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix. Both were fearless and free. Both were charismatic and dangerous. They were restless.

Can you tell MoW more about the techniques you used. How old is your technique? How did it start? How long does it take you to make an artwork?

My work is neo-expressionist pop art with a colourful collision of rock'n'roll swagger, comic book aesthetics, neo-expressionism and street art. GQ Magazine Australia described my work as being 'part punk, part pop'. It has evolved over time. As a kid, I was a graffiti artist. I've always loved colour. As a young child I always drew. I've always known I've wanted to be an artist. When I finished school I went to University and studied Art. Once I finished University and Art School, I immediately started exhibiting. It has been my life ever since.

It usually takes me approximately 80 hours to complete a work. I work 8 hours a days…. 7 days a week. I always work on 3 canvases at one time. Much of my work today deals with the way we connect with pop culture. 

Do you have plans on creating new artworks inspired by music ?

Music is always part of my consciousness when I paint. Different types of music constantly inspire new works and new directions with my work. I paint everyday and everyday I listen to music. Every show I paint has it’s own soundtrack.

Do you listen to music when you’re working ? If so, what kind of music ?

My playlist is varied. From hardcore punk to hard rock, jazz fusion to bebop, hardcore rap/hip-hop to screamo…pop music. I specifically select my music for each day. I have certain albums and songs, which remind me of certain places, themes, moods, etc.  So when I’m painting for a show, I draw upon that music’s energy and intensity.

What is the song you liked the most lately? The album ? What was the last gig you went to ?

Currently I’m listening to a LA band called OFF. The song ‘Hypnotized’ off their ‘Wasted Years’ album is epic!

Recently I saw Blink 182 at The Wiltern in LA.

Actually, I have an interesting story about Blink 182. I collaborated with them recently. They asked me to paint their mascot, the Blink-182 bunny for their Australian 2013 tour. I painted Skull Bunny. My Skull Bunny combined the grittiness and urgency of punk with the exuberant colour and playfulness of pop.

The bunny was hidden in a location in Sydney and I gave clues to its whereabouts via my twitter, facebook page. As it was collaboration, the band would share my tweets and posts to it’s millions of fans worldwide on social media!!!! Whoever found the bunny would win the bunny plus VIP tickets to Blink-182’s Sydney show.

As a result, it went viral! There were hundreds of people on a daily basis searching for the bunny in Sydney. Thankfully, I was in Los Angeles at the time because I literally got hundreds of emails demanding to know where I had hidden the bunny. Some emails were scary! I still get emails from Blink-182 fans in the Ukraine! I’m pretty sure they think I’m Johnny Ramone.

Are you a musician yourself ? If so can you tell MoW more about your music projects ? 

No, I’m not a musician. I did have musical aspirations once. I was a singer in a hard rock band. Unfortunately, the band broke up. In terms of musical projects…. I’m heading back to LA on July 7th. This is such an important date because this is the day Tupac is said to reappear!!!!! Could you imagine????? 


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