Art activist Ricky Lee Gordon first put brush to wall at the tender age of 16. Growing up in ‘the gated suburbs of South Africa’ he painted his first real mural across the highway of the Alexandra Township. It was a turning point.
“I realised how jaded we were as white South Africans, and how I did not want to be part of that. I wanted to use my art to potentially change the world, or at least a part of it, explore new places and be part of a larger community.”
Ricky is well known for his large-scale murals that can be seen in cities all over the world, including Cape Town, Istanbul, New York, Madagascar, Kathmandu and more.
This self-taught artist was born in Johannesburg in 1984; and it was only recently that he’s had any formal training. In 2016 Ricky accepted a scholarship for a three-year Atelier programme at the Los Angeles Academy of Figurative Art.
His paintings explore the nature of non-duality and Dharma (The Buddhist view of interconnectedness)—focusing on bringing relevant social issues to light. His achievements in public art have been noted on CNN, Mail & Guardian’s ‘200 Young People in SA Who Make a Difference’ and National Geographic’s list of ‘11 Street Art Greats’ alongside the likes of Banksy.
“I believe colour creates energy, energy creates inspiration and inspiration creates change.
Up until 2010 Ricky used to paint under the pseudonym ‘Freddy Sam’, which is a combination of his two grandfathers’ names. “Freddy Sam was my forever youthful, fearless romantic alter ego who still believes in Peter Pan. It is my intention to explore my community and surroundings using public art as a tool to communicate and connect with people from all walks of life, I want to create artwork that has meaning to the people who see and experience the mural. I am interested in the experience, which then inspires the result. I believe removing the greyness from the soul of the city is the job of artists, musicians and poets.
He once signed a mural, “Inspire ourselves to inspire each other”. This mantra underlines the importance of his art being out in the public rather than hidden in a gallery, private collection or studio. “We need to inspire each other. Just as music is meant to be heard, art is meant to be seen and felt.”
In 2008, Ricky established /A WORD OF ART—an international art residency and community art outreach dedicated to celebrating new art and emerging young artists. Ricky also started and ran the project Colour Ikamva—a recognized project of World Design Capital Cape Town—that worked to reimagine education through creativity and self-empowerment by transforming the learning environment of schools around Cape Town. In 2013 Ricky closed down his projects to focus completely on his art.