New York has no shortage of artists, which made choosing just one featured artist for our new Brooklyn location almost impossible. . . so we chose two! Complimenting the beautiful architectural design by our friend Jennifer Carpenter, sits a breathtaking mural by reknowned artist Rubin415, accompanying several photos from Joseph Michael Lopez (editor's note: blog coming soon!). Rubin was able to bring his strikingly unique visual style to the walls of our space, bringing together both Scandanavian + New York inspiration to create a truly mesmerizing piece. After he finished installing, we met with Rubin to learn more about his heritage, journey to New York + what aspects of the cities he visits inspire his beautiful work…
hg: tell us a bit about yourself + your journey. We read you’re originally from Finland—how did you wind up making art + living in Brooklyn?
rubin: my name is Tony “Rubin” Sjoman. I’m Finnish in my heritage, but I was born + raised in Sweden. I’ve been visiting New York ever since the 90’s and I always wanted to live here. Almost ten years ago, my wife + I came here with three suitcases to an empty apartment. Once we got to NYC, we never looked back and today I work full time as an artist out of my studio in Tribeca.
hg: we also read that you sprayed your first tag at the age of nine. Were you “hooked” once you completed that initial tag? Why did you choose walls as a primary canvas of choice?
rubin: yes, I started doing graffiti at the age of nine. I grew up in a housing project that was surrounded by concrete. My parents couldn’t afford expensive art supplies, so…
"…graffiti was a very natural way for me to be creative and leave a mark on the concrete that surrounded me."
hg: you mention that your art style draws directly from your Scandinavian heritage. Explain a bit more about this link + how it factors into the design of your work.
rubin: after moving to NYC, I started consciously reflecting on my Scandinavian (and especially my Finnish) heritage. Growing up in a Finnish home, I always had a lot of Finnish design around me—Marimekko fabrics + Iittala mugs were everyday household items back in the day. Also the concrete/brutalist architecture that I was surrounded by growing up is very present in my work, both in color and form.
hg: do aspects of the environment you’re in factor into the design or palette of the final piece? If so, how?
rubin: definitely. I often run across the Williamsburg bridge + I’m always fascinated by the colors of the skyline—it never looks the same as it did the previous day. I’ve tried to capture it with a camera, but photos can’t do the colors justice, so I try to memorize them. Those colors are a huge influence in my palette.
When I’m in Scandinavia visiting, I’ll do the same, but the light in Scandinavia is very different. Gothenburg, the city where I grew up is known, for its grey, rainy + foggy weather and the contrast between that and NYC is something I’m very interested in exploring.
hg: how has your style evolved over the years? Has living and working in NYC / Brooklyn influenced your pieces?
rubin: New York has definitely influenced me both as a person + as an artist. I’ve never been to art school, but living in NYC has been better than any art school for me. The city is constantly evolving and I think that evolution is something you can also see in my work.
hg: you’ve covered quite a lot of ground around the world, installing murals along the way. What are some of the more notable locations where we could find your work?
rubin: Hong Kong, Iceland + Lapland. I also did a mural installation at the Albany Museum of Art in Georgia last year.
hg: is there someplace where you haven’t yet been able to install your work, but hope someday you’ll be able to?
rubin: to do something elaborate in the housing project where I grew up would be nice.
hg: you’re the featured artist for our new Brooklyn spot! Could you explain a bit about what inspired the piece you chose for our location + its message?
rubin: there’s no particular message in the piece, but downtown Brooklyn is just like many other places in NYC—very hectic + busy. I wanted to create something calming for the guests.
"I wanted to bring a little bit of Scandinavia to downtown Brooklyn."
hg: we’ve learned a bit about the street art scenes in Philadelphia, Baltimore + Washington DC on our journey, but we’re fairly new to Brooklyn. What are some aspects of the street art scene + community in Brooklyn that make it unique unto itself?
rubin: the diversity of the graffiti/street art scene here in Brooklyn is unique. Also the amount of talent. You’ll find amazing collaborations here with people from all over the world that I don’t think you’ll find anywhere else, as well.
hg: who or what do you draw inspiration from?
rubin: I’m pretty bad with names, but inspiration comes from anywhere. A lot of inspiration comes from the architecture here in New York, but music is probably my biggest inspiration. Music helps me to visualize things.
hg: where are you headed next?
rubin: I recently had my first book released called New York / Scandinavia. It's the first comprehensive art book featuring my work from the NYC years. This year, I look forward to splitting my time between my new studio in Tribeca and painting murals around the city. My next mural will be a 50ft mural in the lower east side of Manhattan.
visit Rubin's website for more photos of his work + follow him on Facebook, Instagram + Twitter for updates on his travels + recent murals! See his work in person at #hgDowntownBK—now open at 194 Joralemon St!