Federico “Rock” Roldan also known as “Rock” has been painting the streets of Adelaide for 17 years. His iconic style is heavily influenced by Japanese culture. He is responsible for some of Adelaide’s biggest collaboration projects such as “Jive” carpark and Blyth St in the city. His work is famous for its unique “Pod Style” three dimensional adornments.
Can you tell us a little about yourself? Where did you grow up and how did you first become interested in art?
Federico ‘ROCK’ Roldan- also known under various other aliases. I have been painting for 17yrs both legally and illegally in Australia and around the world.
I grew up south of Adelaide and I always used to catch the Noarlunga train line to school and see all the cool artwork along the tracksides. I was always interested in art even as a kid, but those train rides were where the passion evolved from.
This later evolved into a full blown graffiti career that spanned over 10yrs travelling all over Europe and establishing myself as a major graffiti artist in Melbourne with such crews as SDM (Shutting Down Melbourne.)
In later years, started a group of artists called the TOY SOLDIERS, in 2008 with a friend of mine, and I later asked another friend to join.
We were really the only guys going around asking to paint walls in the city, most of the time just doing it for free, if we were lucky the owners would pay for the paint. It was really the start of the street art scene here in Adelaide which later boomed into fully funded council organized events that later didn’t really involve us.
It’s cool though, the streets are full of color now and I like to think that I was around in the beginning and that I’ll still be around in the end. ROCKLIFE! LOL.
What was your first artistic moment?
My most memorable experience was the first time I went painting illegally (1998), this was something I had no idea how to do, no one showed me how to use a can, or where to paint, I found a record shop (central station) that sold spray cans at the time and I found an empty car park somewhere in the city.
I took me about 20mins to do the painting and it was totally shit! But I loved it and from then on I was addicted to painting walls and doing murals.
What mediums do you work in mostly? Which do you enjoy most and why?
Spray can and Graphite Pencil primarily I also print and paint brush. I love pencil work because it is primal, you can draw on anything and it’s totally expressive. I like spray can much for the same reasons but with it you can go BIG!
How long have you been doing street art?
I started out doing graffiti in 1998 and then moved into the art world in 2008.
I don’t really call myself any title such as Artist / Graffiti artist / Street artist.
I’m just a guy who likes ‘making art’ and whatever it is that I make is just an expression of my style… you can just call me ROCK! Because that’s what I try to do! LOL
Have you studied art formally if so where and for how long?
I once tried to study art in a place that are no longer around, called NASA (North Adelaide School of Art). I didn’t really learn anything there so I dropped out after 1 yr. I think Art school is good for some people and bad for others.
If they can teach you technique and skill then it’s good, but if they want to turn you into another ‘model artist’ then I don’t think that’s really productive. My style didn’t fit the gallery scene…. So I made my own gallery on the streets.
Which talent or skill would people be surprised to learn you have?
Well I’m not sure if people would be surprised, but I actually have a career.
I’m a Product designer for an Engineering company. I design products for Defense, Communication and commercial markets, I use 3D CAD software to model parts in 3D then I have them manufactured in China and assembled in Malaysia, I work with a team of Engineers to deliver products to the market, it’s a highly technical role.
I like to think that my Art and Engineering can complement each other. Like black and white. Gives me some balance I think.
What is it that inspires you to create?
I get more excited about the ‘doing’ more than the ‘finished result’. I’m a very active person. I’m always doing something. I think it comes from years of painting illegally at night where it was all about getting in and out without being caught and executing the masterpiece.
This has just kept going with me so that I’ve always got one or more things on the go at the same time, keep active, keep doing and keep changing it up.
You seem to explore a lot of Japanese themes in your work could you explain how this came about?
At an early age I was all about Japanese culture. Back in the 80’s this was a very rare thing. My father came back from a trip to Japan and brought back all this cool stuff, then I got into Manga, then Akira Kurusawa Samurai movies then later in life I travelled to Asia a lot, so naturally I was influenced by that. Also I like the fundamental teachings of Bushido and Zen, keep it simple and master your craft.
What is your favourite work of art that you have created?
Tough question, there are a few for different reasons. It’s hard to name also as some of them are illegal, the most common ones on the streets of Adelaide are probably the Octopus at JIVE and the Samurai in BOWDEN.
Does art have a purpose? If so what do you think that purpose is?
YES it does have a purpose, primarily self-expression. I think all art is for the artist, even art in public spaces. Primarily artists want to create art for themselves, the byproduct of art is that other people get to see it as well.
Even art in public spaces is a primal desire for someone to express themselves on a larger scale, I would paint the entire side of a cliff face in the middle of nowhere that no one else would ever see and still be happy. BUT also art has different meanings to everyone, so that’s just how I see it.
Do you listen to music while creating? If so what type?
YES, it gets the creative juices flowing, I like a lot of FUNK and SOUL, like the music that hip-hop samples. I also like ELECTRONICA the base and sounds move me.
What do you do other than art?
Used to do a lot of extreme sports, like skate boarding / snowboarding / downhill bike riding and road cycling. But now I keep it relaxed.
I own a little space now called “The Space” in the city, where I hold exhibitions for Cool Street/ Graffiti artists I know… It’s cool and I like it.
What would you like to do in the future? Where do you see yourself in the future?
I’m happy where I am for now, I’d like to keep doing cool little projects and running ‘The Space’ maybe travel to some out there countries that don’t have any color on their streets and paint them up a little. … Basically just keep ROCKING! LOL.
*All images supplied by Federico “Rock” Roldan and Andrew Neale (It’s a jungle out there)