Interview – Raynar Rogers – Belgrade Art Studio Online Residency


Could you tell us a little more about your background? How did you start getting interested in performing arts, writing and visual arts? How do you combine all these areas of interest?

I started performing from two years old, so the arts has truly been in my life since I could walk. I started ballet, tap, modern dance and later took a natural step onto musical theatre and acting for stage and screen. Performing allowed me both to step into these little moments of creating art with my body and my mind, and also to understand the role of the audience. I enrolled at Rose Bruford drama school in London at 18 years old which is when things took a turn for me.

I wanted to create. I couldn’t help but want to conduct the set, the timing, the words. Being the puppeteer was a route to turning my knowledge into the power of sharing my voice and my creativity. I studied screenwriting at Bournemouth University and created collaborative theatre and after that spent years working in Korea and Taiwan teaching art, poetry and screenwriting and later becoming a Director working with media teams and curriculum teams. Creative disciplines have found me at different points of my life. I’ve become a jack of all art trades. I’ve been told by so many people that one must choose a path.

When I leaned into abstract painting, I was at a very low point in my life. I was looking for hope, and I found it in painting my poems.

The intersection of where one art form meets another is possibly the most exciting part of being an artist, and I’ve created a space for myself where I allow poems to enter visual art, where audiences can interact with my live painting on the street, where filming is a new way to present and monologues are extremely visual. I’ve lost the fear of choosing a path and just creating the art I want to create from all the amazing experiences I have had.

What kind of creative patterns, routines or rituals do you have?

When I’m creating anything at first, it is extremely intuitive, so I like to pick up a paintbrush or a pen whenever I feel I need to, which at the moment is almost every day, but occasionally I take breaks for weeks at a time. I tend to work in the afternoon or late at night.

I learned that I was neurodiverse around a year ago, which I found a great sense of relief from because I was able to understand some of the coping mechanisms I had in place to handle everything, that I’d wasted a lot of energy masking and how hard it had been to work on projects, particularly lengthy writing projects, without losing track or feeling overwhelmed, so I intentionally started to finish monologues, and short scripts in one sitting. I also learned that sitting and looking at a screen was difficult, so I wrote a poetry chapbook as I walked the streets instead, and started to alternate frequently between painting and writing, which formed habits that helped my written and visual work to influence each other.

Where does your inspiration come from? 

I am deeply inspired by music. I paint a lot while listening to the sound of drums and violins or euphoric electronic sounds. I also find quite a lot of inspiration from lyrics, poems and theatre; diverse artists being innovative or having a profound insight.

I’m inspired by my senses and the ever expanding network of emotions we get to experience as humans.

What inspires me most is my community. I’m ever in awe of my own homeland, the art we create in Wales and the stories we have to tell to the world. I’m finding more queer art than I’ve ever consumed; art that addresses LGBTQIA+ struggles as well as queer joy. There are other communities out there outside of my experience that I see holding power in art spaces, too. It’s really empowering to feel that we’re hearing these voices.

How does your personal life inspire your work?

I experience depression and anxiety frequently, and I also experience a whole host of joy and euphoria. My work is a reflection of these emotions that I think a lot of us live with. Having a more open and honest conversation about mental health and creating a dialogue about the nuances of walking through life; whether it be in relationships, family complications, internal conflicts, the struggles of minority groups, and all that affects us to our core really creates a platform for me to use my own personal experiences to make connections with my art and for my art to make connections with others.

I try to leave it all on the canvas or the page, where I express honesty as best I can. That can be felt in the freedom of the visual pieces, in the child-like images and the way my words often reflect my emotional state of mind. Just like in life, these feelings change and with that, so does my work.

What is your personal aim as an artist?

My main aim is to create work for the audience that may need to see it, to talk about it, and to break down the barriers that we’ve built around us and inside of us, personal narratives that limit and the fear and shame that resides in us. These toxins enter the world in the strangest shapes and cause a lot of unnecessary pain for so many people, including for vulnerable communities. I want to join in the fight for personal freedoms, tackling the broad spectrum of mental health in an effort to promote healing in societies.

How do you feel about being involved in an online residency program? How important is it to stay connected with the international art community?

It has been really rewarding to get involved with the residency and to connect with artists from all over the globe. The program has been very encouraging of interdisciplinary work, which is refreshing.

Living in Taiwan as an international artist can feel isolating at times, and many communities around me are not involved in the arts, so it has been a rare opportunity to be involved in an English-speaking program right here in my country of residence.

I love that the digital space forces me out of my comfort zone and encourages me to step into film as a way to present ideas. It has also offered some really unique opportunities to collaborate with other talented artists and to be part of a supportive team that wants to bring new ideas and perspectives to the table.

I’m very curious to see what happens and to be on the journey!

What are your thoughts about the theme ‘artist on standby’? Tell us a bit more about your project…

I expect that artists majorly effected by the covid 19 crisis were in a state of waiting, particularly in collaborative communities such as theatre. Many self-employed artists in the UK would have been waiting for their government stipends far longer than those who were employed, and waiting for the reopening of theatres, studios and other spaces. Art is fundamental to healing, so while artists suffered, so did consumers that needed art in a difficult time.

While being on standby may have created a lot of pain, there is also a perspective that many artists aren’t given enough time to achieve work in industry timeframes, which many artists working in TV and film talked about over this period of time; art was given time to be realized and developed for some, and for others art was founded as a coping mechanism within the dread and isolation that lockdown brought.

Being on standby is much like waiting in the wings. It is nerve-racking and difficult, but it inherently implies that something is about to happen, and when it does happen, it becomes sweet.

My project will focus on a combination of paintings, poetry and film to discuss the topic of freedom; a feeling many of us sorely missed in the periods of stand-by. I intend to  make a documentary style art film that plays around with images of freedom, poetry and the experiences of many individuals exploring what freedom means to them. While I prepare for this undertaking, I’ve been observing my visual art move into interesting places and I hope to include the making of this work in my film.

What do you want to achieve before things return to normal if it is to happen? Any future plans/projects?

I want to let my free flowing ideas guide me for my own healing.

As for future plans and projects, I am working on publishing my chapbook “Hireath” and turning it into multiple pieces of visual art. My goal for the near future is to transform a space into the world of this book.