For the longest time Robert Diggs b/k/a RZA has been known as an artist behind the boards in the recording studio – his easel a 48-track, his paints the samples he selects, and each brush stroke laid down with an E-mu SP-1200 or a Roland MC-909. Recently though through the help of the collective known as When Art Imitates Life, Mr. Diggs has found a whole new form of artistic expression with a limited edition print called “Victory or Death.” Diggs has been reluctant to speak about the meaning behind his print outside of the art world, but thanks to the fine folks at Dunn Deal PR we were able to procure the photo of RZA pictured at right and get him to answer a couple of questions about his new artistic venture.
Steve Juon: Rumor has it there are 50 hidden elements in the painting. Why not 36 instead, especially since both GZA and Ol’ Dirty Bastard are represented in the piece?
“All the elements are from the ideology of The Tao Of Wu and from Wu-Tang philosophy. [If] you know Wu, they’ll pop up to you.”
RZA: There’s a mystery to how many elements are there. All the elements are from the ideology of The Tao of Wuand from Wu-Tang philosophy. So if you read that book or you know Wu, they’ll pop up to you. You’ll find the elements through your subconscious. We wanted to make this painting fun as well, so to have people looking at it and noticing things like “Oh, there’s a W over there! Is that a face in the clouds right there?” There’s gonna be some things there that aren’t even there. But because the fan is so much into the Wu mythology, he will make a vision of his own out of it.
If you look at the mountains (in the piece) you will see a W formed in the mountains. The reason why we chose to do the W formed in the mountains is because when I went to Wu-Tang Mountain in China, I went there with my sifu, and we took a photo of me standing on the side of the mountain. And in the photo it looked like the Wu-Tang W. And my sifu, who’s from China, never been to America, didn’t hear Wu-Tang as he grew up, he said “History already knew you would come one day.” It was destiny for me to be who I am. And that’s remarkable. So we took that and put it in the painting.
SJ: “Victory or Death” is a limited edition release not available to the masses. Do you intend for such a hard to acquire piece to be influential in the hip-hop world, the art community, or both?
“If I can inspire somebody [to] see the artistic nature of the mind, I think that it’ll help people.”
RZA: I’ve been to Paris many times in my life. I even had a villa 25 miles outside of Paris. But honestly, I had never really seen the city, paid attention to the city. It wasn’t until the spring of 2009 that I had two weeks in Paris and I went to their museums and went to the Eiffel Tower and went more like a tourist and absorbed the city, and that’s when I really appreciated Paris and the whole French culture. I also got a great appreciation for art. It’s funny how when you’re young you don’t see the beauty in things. I remember I was in San Francisco at the Museum of Abstract Art, and I took my son and my wife there, and we were looking around, and I kind of caught the vibe of what they were doing. Two years ago or five years ago I wouldn’t have caught it. I think as we grow and become more refined, more cultured, our tastes become stronger. We have more of an understanding of things. So if I can inspire somebody to say “let me go over here and check this museum” and see the artistic nature of the mind, the consciousness that art derives from, and how it comes into the consciousness, I think that it’ll help people. It’s a good thing for culture.