Ronnie playing piano - one of his many creative talents - here he plays Coldplay's "Scientist"

Hampstead-based-artist Ronnie Shahmoon was the first to feature on BBC2’s series Show Me The Monet: the BBC’s answer to Dragon’s Den but for artists. Hosted by BBC presenter Chris Hollins and judged by three of the world’s toughest art critics, the show has proved increasingly popular up and down the country. An interesting first candidate, Ronnie Shahmoon from London kick-started the show with a contemporary twist: his large artwork featuring plugs and switches may look banal on face-value, but it actually holds a pretty significant meaning. In 1999, at the age of 29, Ronnie was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. This illness has shaped his character as an individual. “It has taught me many hard but vital lessons”, he explains. As a result he spends a lot of time examining his own perspectives on life and often expresses his thoughts as artistic works. His conceptual piece, Connectivity, is made from household plugs and power sockets. “It is fundamentally about power, connections and decision-making” Ronnie explains. “The array of sockets in the background expresses the base of opportunities from which to power up and connect from. It is a piece about engaging with life.” The foreground, then, consists of the actual plugs and sockets which represent choices made, depending on whether they are switched on. “Those switched on represent how we animate our lives.” From an autobiographical perspective, Ronnie’s internal physical connections dealing with Parkinson’s disease represent changes in connections and even missing connections.

I got talking to Ronnie Shahmoon after the show and discovered the many diversions to his life. Ronnie is an accomplished intellectual, a deep thinker, a philosopher of art and life and has an insatiable intellectual curiosity, which shows through in his musings both talking to him and in his online content through his public campaigns and studies. The beauty of it all is that he himself manages to perfectly connect all of these subjects together in a way that is gaining him popularity in London’s art world and beyond.

On art, Ronnie explains “It has the ability to stir emotions deep within us and bring them to the surface so that we may experience them. Each art piece has a different impact on every observer because the art not only expresses itself but helps the observer to express his or her feelings toward it.” One of the drives behind Ronnie’s work is admittedly the interplay between the comfort of being part of something and the struggle to be individual. His campaign U-ART www.u-art.org emphasises that “you are art”. Ronnie explains “it examines this psychological dimension not only by placing the viewer squarely in the frame but also places the frame itself in context. It poses fundamental questions about human nature and our unwillingness to accept responsibility for our actions.  We can choose to project our emotions into the artwork making the art the subject of discussion or we can accept our emotions as our own and take back true power. It is only when we are the subject that we can take action. But this is almost impossible while we insist on being the objective viewer. The object by its very nature cannot take action. It is all too often the innocent victim of the subject. Ronnie holds the view that every individual has the opportunity to change their experience in life. He claims that taking responsibility is an essential component for happiness and that this is only possible if there is a willingness to accept our illusions for what they are. “A false sense of security may feel wonderful but it is completely dysfunctional.” His piece Exit Strategyaddresses reality and the need to keep in touch with it, by exiting a bubble of illusion.

It is time to connect with Ronnie and ask him some questions….

Ronnie, tell me about your journey from engineering to art?

I studied engineering for my bachelor’s degree and after three years I learned just one thing – I. didn’t want to be an engineer. Then I went to New York and studied music technology: I was a bit of a techie at the time…I still am a bit…so I have a Masters in music. I wrote music for a video game and also music software for musicians in the past. About 10 years ago I started drawing pencil stuff. I used to hang my pencil drawings in my office. I have worked in an office pretty much since I left university in 1993. I never really fit in. I work in the property industry but find myself increasingly drawn to the artistic stuff. First it was architecture. I became really good at space planning as I have a really good understanding of space.

Would you describe all of your work as conceptual?

Yes, I think so. I have been thinking about that recently, because I am pretty nifty with a pencil and not so good with paint, but really my main strength is concepts and simplifying them, exposing the obvious flaws, which are so obvious we overlook them.

Your website www.statementoftheart.com is pretty slick.

Thank you.

What is your overall “statement of art” to the world?

I think that “we” artists need to realise our power. We are much smarter than the people that wield power in this world because we haven’t made ourselves stupid or rather because we don’t accept the status quo. In searching to become an artist you can fall out of many accepted norms and this is where the problem comes. You can’t fight big brother but if you are smart enough you can use it to shed light on itself. The media could be its own biggest enemy, if we used it for good that is. Do you understand that?

“Falling”, a piece about a wall of control and the inability to escape its amorphous, cold grip

Yes…I also like your expression of art through video. You describe your video “Falling” as being an intended continuum. You mention you employ a sound known as a “shepherd” tone which never stops descending and could be extended at any length. You also say that the endless deluge of remote controls is starkly contrasted against our inability to stop the downpour.  What do you mean by all this?

“Falling” is really installation art – YouTube does it no justice. Imagine a room with four walls of falling that kept on falling for as long as you were in the room. It would drag you down with it. The shepherd tone is a sound that continuously descends or ascends in pitch with no end.

I somehow found it a bit of an ‘audio-illusion’ in that the tone sounds like it is descending, but seems to remain consistent: is this true?

It is actually an illusion, as lower tones fall out the bottom new higher tones are added at the top to keep it going. You can play it for any length of time and it will always be falling. I must make the installation for that.

In the moving-art piece “Eyes”, you create moving pixels unveiling a face. This new innovative technique is known as ‘video-impressionism’. Tell me about this.

Eyes” is a static image that is unveiled by the movement of particles across it – which animates it and brings it to life. The particles are a bit like the brush strokes of an impressionist painter, except they move.

Yes: it is a genius idea.

Thank you.

Which artists or art movement inspire you?

I love pop art, but I prefer to think of art as a progression. When you see where it came from and where it’s going it is really interesting – I feel a lot of art nowadays is about trying to be different. Even the show asked “is it original?” but the problem with that is that you get a lot of artists “trying to do something different” whilst lacking any real substance in the actual work.

What inspired Trio Lisa?

Trio-Lisa is a very interesting work based around psychology. I wrote a blog post called “opposites are part of the same” which addresses the piece. We have two Mona Lisa’s facing each other, one the original, the other by Marcel Duchamp. The question we ask when faced with those opposites is “which one of these is art?” We think there are only two answers, but we could also say both, or even neither. It is the same point I make in my blog post “none of the above” and it is actually the foundation of mysticism and holistic thinking, but we are getting too far off topic now…what I mean to say is that the parts you can see are as important as the parts that you can’t.

In ‘iPod trap’, you show yourself trapped in an iPod trying to escape – we are all trapped in technology, aren’t we…

Yes, we are all stuck in technology. The work is also a reflection of how I feel about my illness and being trapped and inanimate. The other thing I said was that the beauty is on the inside. The iPod is the deception of beauty and acts as a trap, when it is made of plastic and glass.

Tell me about your composition for ‘September 11.’

September 11 is a conceptual piece again – there are metaphors with injections and needles which feel very uncomfortable, but then again, medicine helps. September 11 is a kind of wake-up call or truth-serum-injection. It is easy to use politics, sex and religion to make striking art, but to do it without that, to do it with household items: that is where I want to go… I actually try to abstract my ideas into easily identifiable objects.

Your ‘betrayal’ piece also involves injections…what is your message in that one?

I just like the players in that piece: the heart, the pawns and the needle. It’s an interesting trio. There is a lot about me in that one.

How come?

The heart, the needle and the pawn combined… I often feel like the pawn, at other times the needle and other times the heart

Yes it is: What is your piece Ladies and Gentlemen about?

Ladies and gentlemen is my redesign for the toilet logo: let’s say it as it is. It is a bit of comedy and forms part of my earlier work. I seem to be getting more and more serious these days. My latest bit of iconography is verging on scary {Ronnie laughs}

And what about fresh perspectives 1 and 2, where you invert milk and coca cola, by putting milk in coke cans and coke in milk bottles?

I love that piece especially no.1. It’s a bit of pop art. It is about conflicting messages and what the media feeds people.

Fresh Perspective 1 – a piece about being fed information that we simply accept for truth by ‘mummy-media’

Are you expressing that figuratively through the bottles?

Yes. It’s good because its whole milk, but then again, not if you are lactose intolerant or you need a coke when you are thirsty as coke is bad for you. The bottle is a baby bottle – we are treated like and act like babies lapping up whatever mummy-media nurses us.

What can users of your online artificial intelligence chat server expect?

{Ronnie laughs} nonsense. I love it because it’s as stupid as we are becoming on Facebook. There is a lot of nonsense on Facebook and Twitter, just filling spaces. It’s engaging for a time, but a bit meaningless.

Tell me more about your interest in chaos theory….

Well, chaos theory is a branch of mathematics. I always loved maths at school. I only found out about it when I was older.

You are also intrigued by mysticism. Which conclusions have you drawn on the subject?

It really is hard to say what I think about it. I think it must be science or it would not make sense: it must tie in with scientific thinking somehow. Modern physics is already challenging beliefs about the nature of our reality. I think it plays a mysterious role in art, kind of like a random throw of a dice

How come?

It can be unnerving, because you cannot explain it but you also cannot challenge it. It’s the same tool politicians use to start wars. You can’t really grab hold of it, but it is a challenge you have to deal with and put somewhere. Great art always conflicts you on the inside while being deceptively simple on the outside. Mysticism is the same in a way. Are we more than flesh and bone? It certainly feels like we are…but science argues we aren’t. Anyway, the conflict is already there. Mysticism makes it mysterious and that’s good for art.

Which book are you reading at the moment?

I’m not reading one currently, thought I was reading a lot of books, my favourite of which was on transactional analysis, a branch of psychology, called The Games People Play by Eric Berne.

What about music?

I like pretty much everything but find myself listening to whatever’s on Capital Radio.

I have played piano since I was 7. I like techno and classical and better still fusion of the two.

What do you connect with most in life?

{Ronnie laughs} That’s a very good question. I am constantly trying to connect through art, to make sense of my reality.

What are you working on at the moment?

I am working on a show. I have no idea what will be in it. Digital art does not find much favour. What do you think about that?

I think you are being mysterious {laughs} Give us a little clue about what we can expect to see in the show….

I want the show itself to be a work of art: an experience. It’s challenging though, so I am not sure.

Are you a spontaneous artist?

Yes, very spontaneous. I think the show after next will be more structured, but I try to think the art through before I make it.

Ronnie: thank you for your time. I’m excited about seeing more of your work and I for one definitely connect with it!

Can I ask you a question now?


What is the value in my work, or any artist’s work?

Well, I think your art is intellectually valuable: it is thought-provoking. It achieves exactly what you talk about: the two-way interaction between the artist conveying the message and the recipient getting involved by reacting to it.

Ronnie’s life story is a motivational one and what is particularly inspiring about his creations, is that he sparks off creative thoughts in the viewer, reader or listener and by doing this I think he has already achieved what he set out to do. As the interview ends and I thank Ronnie for his time, I walk to the toaster in the studio to make myself a snack only to discover as if by comical co-incidence the toaster has just stopped working. Considering Ronnie’s electrical switches inConnectivity, the switch of this toaster is definitely on, but is disconnected. On his way out, Ronnie jokes “You know, you should make that into a piece of art.”

“Grandfather's clock” is purposely kitch in its implementation. It is a vulgarisation of a classic, renewed but not restored

You can read more about Ronnie, his art, e-books, business and blog on several of his websites:-





© The Culture Cave 2011. All rights reserved










Similar Posts

Leave a Comment