The first time I met Rae was during the infamous Vogue’s Fashion Night out in Milan, in 2011. My friend Mattia introduced me to him, but I had no clue he was (and is) such a talented and recognized artist.

He was wearing shorts, and had a bald head, looking more like an old school b-boy than anything else.

We decided the VFN was way too crowded for us and went to a pub to have a drink.

Fashion was not a topic in our conversation, neither was art. We were talkin’ shit, yes, that’s the right phrase. Talkin’ shit about people trying to be something or someone all the time. It is an universal topic I think. People all over the globe want to be someone and prove to everybody that they really are. Rae is different. He’s simply who he was born to be, and does what he was born to do. He comes from the dirt and made his road to gold, never faking it, and judging by the hundreds of people that attended his book and film lauch on May 10 at the Don Gallery in Milan, I can honestly say that a lot of people got his message of realness.

To find about more about Rae Martini and his art : http://www.raemartini.org/

What do you remember about the early days when you began painting as a writer?
Well… I remember a lot of things. I remember the nights, the missions, the trains and subway stations at night. I don’t like to sleep on the past so I kept on going on, translating the past experiences in energy and motivation for new challenges and expressive languages.

When you used to paint on trains, did you ever imagine you could make a living working as an artist? How did you develop your artistic path?
Not at all, I was painting illegally back then and I was focused on learning styles and paint wild letters on trains, I was painting canvaes just to practice styles at home on bigger surfaces and with more colours. I saw NYC kings of styles such as Phase II or Dondi that were painting supercool canvases and I was impressed by their amazing works, but as a youngster I had to break my backbone and work hard on trains in those days to make my knocks hard, as years went by I realized that there were also further channels through which I could express my creativity, (even if my favorite of all time will always be steel) so I studied abstract art and developed my directions on conceptual abstract works. What I paint on canvas is not what I used to paint on trains, you can find traces of my previous activity as a writer between the multi-layers of my paintings, but I think it’s a must to specify that my activity on canvas is not “writing”. Writing is and still will be only in the streets and I couldn’t paint the same piece I used to paint on the streets on a canvas.

Who influenced your early productions and how they changed as time went by?
My early productions as a writer were influenced by many amazing artists… first I must say that the original kings of style from NYC influenced my way of writing letters, I was impressed by their techniques and flows. I will name a few of so many… first I must say Kase 2 and Phase 2, Dondi White, TATS cru, T Kid, Sharp… I was impressed by the works of some of the italian masters such as Solow, Shad, Drop:c, Sky:4, some of them gave me some good advices too. At the same time I was trying to develop my path, so I used to draw on paper for hours, then go paint on the streets, taking pictures, learn from my mistakes, draw again, painting, pictures and so on. It went on for more than ten years, then I retired from painting trains. What influenced my previous and actual works on canvas is the history of art. From Caravaggio to Pollock, from Rothko to Schifano and Rotella, from Kline to Crali and more… Obviously the aim of a painter is to be able to express himself in his own language and style, writing his own creative chapter, and that’s what I always wanted to do and will keep on doin’.

Let’s talk about the video, where the idea comes from and where it will be screened?
The video is part of the project 24 carat dirt which consists also of a book about my first works on paper/steel/concrete/canvas. It contains also a small selection of the most recent works, just to show where I am at now. The reason why I didn’t put my works on canvas between 2002 and 2008 is because it’s too early, I consider myself too young to make a contemporary art monograph book, I will do it when I will be 60 years old, now I have to work hard and study. The video has been made up to show what kind of person I am and how I live and work in the actual period, it shows me, the city and the studio and the relation between us.

What’s next for Rae Martini?
Part of 2011 and 2012 have been focused on releasing and promoting the project, so I spent a lot of time on managing it and I really miss my music, my table lamp and drawing. I miss painting huge canvases too so I think I will hide myself in the studio and work for a couple of years and more.

Interview by Gianluca Quagliano

All pics courtesy of Mattia Buffoli