• Shock or an Invitation to Dialog

Amazing. Another word for Ricky Lee Gordon’s drawing is hard to find. He impresses, delights, causes controversies, questions and even exasperates some residents.

Ricky – an artist from Johannesburg (South Africa) – painted facade of house No. 16 on 40 Let Pobedy Street in the Zapadny Microdistrict of Satka. His works show ecological and environmental problems and can be seen on walls of cities around the world. And now in Satka, too.

- Russia day two and finished! I am so happy as this marks the end of a two and half month trip with back to back projects. It’s been an adventure but it’s been hard and quite honestly at times lonely. I couldn’t be more excited to be getting home to be with friends, have a routine, cook my own food, and take refuge in my studio for a while. Thank you to everyone along the way. It’s been more then inspiring and humbling!  I’ve learned so much and feel great shifts coming, – Ricky wrote in Instagram.

And what our fellow-citizens feel about art of a man listed among the 11 Best Street Artists according to National Geographic. South Africa? We’ve found it out, having visited the object on the last day of his work (June 26) when it became clear what will the final drawing be like.

By the way, on his way from the airport to Satka, the author changed his mind about the original sketch. He was so impressed by our nature in small hours that in his work, he combined our mountainous landscape, gold of sun reflected from water, and a stately antelope (others see in the depicted animal a gazelle, a doe, a deer, and even a goat).

Nature and man are two dominants of the painting where the author put the dialog.

Moreover, combining absolutely different images in the painting is distinctive style of the artist.

The day before, draft of the future painting with color marking mostly in black and red colors) caused controversy among the residents. Some of them started to resent and speak out against such work. Others suggested to wait for final result and went studying author’s art on Internet. Still others suggested to “mitigate darkness of the painting” with bright colors. Another part of the residents insisted inscription on the painting to be in Russian. By the way, it is the inscription that will be the clue to the idea of the art:

“Dawn. Sunset. We all are under the same sun,” – the artist wrote it twice, in English and in Russian. In addition, at request of the residents, Ricky added colors that he had never used in his works before – blue and pink.

- We heard that an artist paints on our house, but did not go down here because we always walk with my granddaughter in the stadium. And today we came here to see, watch how such works are created, – says Svetlana Gabdulovna Zalayeva. – I like the painting, but it seems a little bit dark...

- But right now the artist is adding light colors, – I continue the conversation.

- I wonder what this person means – without a head, without a face? – asks my interlocutress.

- I think that it tells us the story that man is not the main being in this world. That is why only his silhouette is here, and the nature and the antelope are painted in all their beauty...

- Yes, it’s a beautiful, original painting and, of course, it’s much better than empty wall. And our house is near forest so this painting fits well to its green surroundings. The main thing is that it impresses. All people we talked with are happy. And when first houses were painted in the Zapadny, everyone liked it, too, – Svetlana Gabdulovna noted and hurried to her granddaughter Aleksandra who started to climb higher to have a better view of how does Ricky work.

In the evening, one by one, residents were coming to look at the painting and to see how the work progressed over the day. Many changed their minds, and some came closer to the artist to thank him.

A group of curious girls shyly looked out from around the corner. The providers asked them to move away to see the entire painting. They asked the artist: “What does all this mean?” and learned that the painting depicts image of man and animal – the symbol of Africa where the author came from, shows mountains that surround us, and that all this is about interaction between man and nature. In a few minutes, owners of new information have brought girlfriends on excursion and were knowingly telling them about what the artist wanted to say with his work.

Having finished painting, Ricky took a few photos and shared his impressions:

- First, I really worried. I did not expect such reaction from residents. But now everything is fine and I’m happy with the result.

For me, it is very important to contact local residents, to know their opinion, so I’m glad that we had a dialog.


Ricky Lee Gordon was born in Johannesburg in 1984.

Till 2014, he was curator and art activist. In 2015, his solo exhibition was held. He lived and worked in Cape Town until in 2016 he moved to Los Angeles to study classical painting. He established A WORD OF ART gallery and the art residence on the platform of rehabilitation school Color Ikamva.

Ricky is a self-taught artist. He is well-known for its grandiose murals that can be seen on walls of homes around the world, from New York to Madagascar and Kathmandu.

Ricky is inspired by his experience in meditations and Buddhism. Through his works, he studies the nature of non-duality and interconnection, fixing current social issues and universal truths. He sees the main goal of his works in creating an artistic image which show connection between man and location of the street art.

Sometimes his works are abstract and deconstructed, and sometimes they are spontaneous and moralistic. He combines two different images, adding bold poetic text to create a special unity of two fantastic stories.

He is listed among the 200 young most influential people in South Africa, and is the winner of the international award Art and Healing network according to newspaper Mail & Guardian. Along with Banksy, he listed among the 11 Best Street Artists according to National Geographic.

In Satka, Ricky worked during the second International Street Art Festival “Satka Street Art Fest.”

Source: Magnezite News

Anna Filippova, photo by Anna Filippova and Ricky Lee Gordon.