Created in 2006, Colectivo RUA is a group of multidisciplinary artists from Porto, whose creative process develops through graffiti, graphic design, illustration, photography, sculpture and music. Their collective work has developed into two sections . On the one hand, the development of artistic projects solo or collectively. In parallel, working with some brands and artistic event producers, casual design, development of artistic concepts, live performances at events and festivals.
From day one of the project there has always been a strong connection to Portugal and in particular the coastal city of Porto in northwest of Portugal. Known for its stately bridges and Port wine production, the medieval Ribeira (riverside) district, narrow cobbled streets that wind past merchants’ houses and cafes. The former home of GCASFM's Creative Director Aaron Darveniza and lifetime home of a group of his friends the Colectivo RUA. It gives us the great pleasure to grab a few words with the guys and find out how the Porto creatives put the city on the map.
Welcome the RUA crew, who are the members of the crew? And are you all based in Porto?
Hi! Rua is a collective group based in Porto, it's currently composed of seven members: Contra, Draw, Fedor, Oker and Third which work is mostly graffiti and illustration, Unmade is a graphic designer and Mash focuses on the photography.
As the second largest city in Portugal and one of the major urban areas in South Western Europe, what is the Graffiti scene like in Porto? Are you the number one city in Portugal for Graffiti and Street Art?
Assuming that quantity is not quality, we guess that Lisbon and Porto graffiti scene is very similar. Porto had a twist recently as the old mayor who as against graffiti left and the new mayor is much more supportive, therefore, there are much more murals than before. We have quite a few active writers in here, and since is not a big city, we know all of each other, which makes the movement pretty good to be in.
Tell us about the Porto, the city and its people, what is the way of life like there?
Porto is a very relaxed and sunny city. Most of us are really nice and friendly we know how to make visitors feel welcome, is also a good place to eat good traditional food and party at night.
Are we right that RUA means street? Why did you choose this name? Or is it simply because your work is in the street?
Yes the meaning of the word 'RUA' is street. But actually the letters 'RUA' were a abbreviation for our old crew name, since the street has always been our place of preference to paint it ended up making sense.
The crew has a very diverse amount of styles, how would you breakdown your individual styles? Like characters, letterforms, who does what?
We all make both characters and letters but each one has its preference. Contra mainly does letters and abstract shapes. He also works out most of the concepts for the walls. Draw specialty are portraits on his own individual sketched style. Fedor does letters and character, as well as detailed backgrounds, with a very textured language. Oker adds freshness to the walls with his cartoon style painting. He does characters and letters too. He's often the right guy to decide which colours to use too. Third's preference is for characters and backgrounds. His stuff has a more realistic vibe to it, he works very well with light and shadow.
How did you all meet? Were you all friends before the graffiti?
We all have roots in graffiti although we have known which others in different times, painting has always been the starting the reason that brought us together.
The way of life seems pretty chilled and relaxed in Porto; does this attitude help you in creating your work? Does the city embrace art on the streets? Or is like everywhere an activity that isn’t tolerated well?
Street art always make some kind of reaction in people, good or bad. We guess that the city habitants always liked murals, but not bombing or tags. Now with the scene growing, and new opportunities coming, Porto is a very nice place to do street art.
Are there any legal walls in the city or do you have to be on your toes finding spots?
Although commissioned work has become much more frequent, we still don't have a 100% legal wall. Nevertheless, it's easier than ever to ask for a permit for a mural and actually getting it. We have a few spots, were we can paint paint and no one bothers us, but they aren't legal.
Did you all have artistic tendencies as children? Was art a big part of growing up? What is life like outside the graffiti scene? Do you all have design jobs?
Beside Graffiti, we all have different backgrounds Draw is an architect, Oker and Unmade are graphic designers, Fedor is a professional DJ, Third have various formations related arts, Mash took photography classes and Contra self-taught artist. So art is always present. But the interest in art is present in all of us since we were kids.
The natural progression from the street to the gallery is a global necessity, how do you translate your street work to the gallery? Have you had any group shows? Do you adopt the same mentality when you’re working on a studio piece as when you’re outside painting in the street, is working to a deadline something you just accept?
To exhibit in a gallery for us is a complement to the work that we make on the street. It's quite different to make an exhibition and to paint a wall. We've had some expositions already and try to expose collectively with some regularity, the gallery work allows exploring new techniques , both the level of painting and sculpture and even address different concepts.
We are sure there are many influences to your art? But what would you say are your main inspirations? The way you choose the places to paint, is there a connection to the pieces you create there? Does Portuguese culture and traditions influence your work?
We believe that it's good to make a balance between the environment and the concept of the wall. The Portuguese culture and traditions influence your work a lot, we take great pride in being Portuguese. Things such as poetry, music, fine art and lifestyle are usually a big inspiration for our work.
What artists inspire you dead or alive?
We are all very influenced by the past Porto graffiti scene, but, since we are a collective, it's difficult to say all the influences, as each member's inspirations are different.
A crew is like a family, but are there natural collaborations within the crew that naturally work together better than others, or do you just mix it up when creating a piece?
It is always difficult to do a piece by all the collective, because we all have our agendas and solo projects but whenever possible we developed a project together. We like to work all together when possible, but there are indeed some collaborations that work very well. In our last exhibition we tried to merge all styles together and we were pretty happy with the results. Sometimes you can't tell who did what and that's one of the aims of the collective when working together.