Street art has always been one of my favourite things to discover when travelling. I actively search for cool murals and street art festival spots when I can, and I found some stand-out artists whose works just pop out to you no matter where in the world I find their works. One of those artists ROA, a Belgian street artist from Ghent, and I thought I’d share with you some of my favourite ROA street art murals that I’ve spotted in my travels.
ROA street art is very distinct: realistic black and white drawings of animals, often native to the place the mural is in and less flashy types of animals – lots of rodents and smaller creatures are larger than life in his art. His works usually depict the animal(s) at some stage of their life cycle, whether they are alive and gambolling around or still and decomposing. I enjoy the detail that he puts into his animals even without the use of colours, and how he lets his wall dictate the outcome of his work.
I first took notice of ROA’s works in 2014 on a work trip to London. I had some free time after the work was done and spent it checking out the street art in Shoreditch and found several of his works. I didn’t know it at that time, but apparently I somehow managed to spot this rather reclusive artist himself at work on a piece, which is pretty rare especially when unplanned – he doesn’t have official social media or a proper website, and not much information about himself is available.
I would return to London several times after in the following years, and found more ROA street art as I explored the area.
ROA’s work is so distinct that a few months after that London trip in 2014, I was in Portugal‘s southern Algarve town of Lagos when I spotted his flamingo work and it stopped me short because I was sure that I recognised his distinct style. I was still pretty new to street art then, but I spent an afternoon checking out Lagos street art works from the LAC festival and found his snails as well.
Later on in 2016 when on my career break, I spent 3 weeks traipsing around Poland and several days were spent searching for and admiring the impressive mural collection in its various cities. I spotted a few ROA street art works in Łodz (pronounce it as wooj) and Warsaw.
On the tail end of the Europe leg of my Career Break, I hung around in Berlin for a bit and went on the Alternative Berlin street art workshop tour when we passed by this ROA work along the way. I don’t remember if he said very much about it, but I had actually forgotten I took this shot until I unearthed it while looking through my pix for this article.
The following year I found myself in Bangkok with some time to spare after the end of a media trip and did a deeper dive into the Bangkok street art scene around the Chinatown area. The Bukruk Street Art Festival in 2016 had created a lot of new works and I was stoked to see this piece by ROA, right next to a work by another Spanish artist that I like called Aryz.
I’m writing this in 2020 amidst the COVID travel shutdown, so while I can’t go out and see all these street art works that I love so much, I’ve been doing my wanderlusting via the ROA Codex, a massive book collecting photographs of most of his works from all around the world as well as some essays exploring the themes of his works. I picked this out for my birthday and have been slowly paging through it. Looking at his archive of works was what made me decide to put this post together.
To me, all the different animals and artworks are a reminder of the diversity of different countries, yet how universal themes like life, death and nature run through our cities and cultures no matter where we are. Also, I do miss travelling and seeing more of the world and I’m looking forward to a time where I can see more ROA works and other street art again.
Looking for more street art? I have plenty of detailed street art guides for you to take a virtual urban tour, or bookmark these articles for your future trips.