An Interview With Wasted Rita
Wasted Rita (Rita Gomes) is a Portuguese artist who breathes the same angst-ridden fuck-the-world attitude as the early DIY punk scene, shunning corporate pressure to conform, facing the realities of modern feminism and a failing European economy, all with a cartoon bright grotesque freehand. We crossed paths at an exhibition in 2009 and she has been working tirelessly ever since. I had a chance to catch up with her and see what’s happening in Rita’s world.
An interview with
Firstly, I’d like to know your name, where you are from and where you live now?
My name is Rita. I’m from Águas Santas, a really small, shitty ghost town in Portugal, even though I could be from New Jersey and probably I’d be fucking with Pauly D by now. Nowadays, I’m living in Porto but making plans to leave the country in September. There is an entire world to explore.
I first came across your work at an exhibition in London we were both part of back in 2009. I remember it well as it was a DIY exhibition and yours stuck out as a truly DIY piece rather than being ‘graduate show’. When did you start taking your work seriously and when did you first exhibit?
That was my first exhibition actually. Being chosen for such a strong collective show with such ‘big’ names made me realise, for the first time, I could have something special. Sadly, at that time I was still massively naive, ingenuous, and way too dumb to truly understand and engage in my natural talent and distorted mind. Adele and I, we are the living proofs that rubbish relationships can take you anywhere. Some bastard had to completely blast my heart and soul for me to wake up for life. Even though I did not get on the list of top ten highest-paid illustrators under the age of 30. And I’m not pregnant. But I’ve been doing (solo and group) exhibitions a bit all over the place, working as a maniac, having fun, feeling really good and complete with what I do and loving everything I put myself into.
This is the type of question that makes me take more than 3 months replying to an interview. My favourite era: definitely not the 70s. Favourite bands (without over thinking it): Kid Dynamite, The Bouncing Souls and Black Flag.
My favourite records and bands change everyday, though. Not in a slutty way, more like a healthy over passionate obsession. I gave up on trying to explain how magic some punk music is a long time ago, it’s just not possible to put across this feeling.
You’ve designed some album covers for bands also, tell me a little about who you have worked with?
I’ve worked mainly with some small punk rock projects from Portugal: Untied Shoes, Groove Mood, Albert Fish, Botswana and a few more. I have also done some t-shirt artworks and flyers for bands all over the world. Antillectual, Trial, Patsy O’hara, Kids., Nerd Alert, The Flatliners, The Bouncing Souls, No Fun At All, In-Sane, and many more. I’m trying to work more with bands again, since it is something I’ve been doing since I was sixteen and that I love to do.
Not for free, though. No thank you, not anymore.
Tell me about some of your favourite album covers?
This is the type of question that makes me take more than 3 months replying to an interview, part 2.
Not sure. Definitely not Joy Division’s ‘Unknown Pleasures’ album cover. Black Flag’s ‘Split It In’ and ‘Nervous Breakdown’ have always touched me in a special way. In fact, Raymond Pettibon is the coolest shit ever. I remember one day, when I was thirteen, being with my family at a music store and my father giving me some money to randomly choose an album from the entire store. I followed my older sister to the punk music section, and randomly chose Suicidal Tendencies’ ‘Freedumb’, totally based on its cover. This is how I got my first punk album ever. It’s definitely not my favourite album cover, but probably the most important and life changing one. Since then I started being really into punk music, and also stopped judging albums by their covers. Even though sometimes it works.
You have many different characters in your work, who inspires these sometimes grotesque beings?
Have you ever been in Porto? Let me know when you are around, I’ll take you to this particular zone of the city, Areosa, where your beauty standards will change completely. In a so fucking dirty it’s beautiful kind of way. Sometimes it comes from what I see around me. Or from punk, trash, fast and loud music. Other times it is just a consequence of my tendency for careless and fearless drawing.
What is your preferred method of making work? Painting, pens, photoshop?
I don’t like to get stuck in one specific method, but: cheap pens, cheap inks, cheap paper, cheap pencils, using old stuff I found around, a scanner and 5 minutes of photoshop is my favourite and most spontaneous way of working.
You seem to have a hard work ethic but one of the themes in your work is unemployment and rebelling against corporate conformity. Does this come from personal experience?
Ninety nine per cent of my work comes from personal experiences. My nonconformity, hard work ethics come from necessity. Trying to pay your bills as a freelance illustrator can be a hell of a painful experience. Especially if you are from a small-bankrupt-no-opportunities-for-young-and-creative-minds country, like Portugal. You can only make it if you work hard and focus on your objectives. Of course, there are a few other magic factors that can help make the difference. But the most important thing is that moment when you realise that if you want to do something, you can do it, you should do it, and you must start right now. ‘And if at first you don’t succeed, dust yourself off and try again.’ This world is getting rougher and rougher, so you really need to step up your game and be even rougher than the world itself. You need to wake up everyday kicking this world’s ass. Make sure you also have some fun on the way.
You are a female artist who has a strong feminist outlook in some of your work yet there is a lot of humour in there too. What influences you in your work?
I spent part of my adolescence totally obsessed with punk music, I spent way too many hours listening to it and the most important part for me have always been the lyrics. These have always been my favourite books. I’ve learned more from this than from regular school, I’d say. Punk music made me a bit more aggressive, direct and inconvenient. Inside my punk rock obsession I had a sub-obsession with Riot Grrrl music. Bulimia, Dominatrix and Bikini Kill are the bands that taught me I can do anything I want. These are certainly my biggest roots, which keep influencing my everyday life (not only my work) in a thoughtless way. Nowadays, what really inspires me is life, people and their actions. I like to watch bad TV programs and soap operas, to travel by bus, listen to peoples’ conversations, stay in my corner while I staring at others. Not in a snobbish-arrogant-pretentious-superior way. I’ve always felt like I don’t belong in this world, therefore all this analysing and over thinking, my attitudes come out very naturally. Most of the time I feel like I’m not a human being, but at the end of the day we are all very similar and predictable.
Your slogans are becoming a big part of your output and I often see them floating around tumblr, which is always amusing, but where do they come from? Yourself? Conversations you have or overhear? Just for fun?
Definitely not just for fun. It’s more like a mental relief or a free psychiatric appointment with myself. It comes from life and from living it. Sometimes from conversations I have with others. Sometimes I just want to kick someone specific in the nuts. Other times it’s so spontaneous and natural that I can’t even remember where it came from. I am a quiet and observational person, so I tend to have lots of shit going on in my mind. Most of the things I write is to keep myself positive and to give myself some extra power.
You have slowly built up a fine collection of merchandise that features your designs and artwork. What made you take the leap into making independent mercy?
I have always been doing things for myself. Firstly, I never really liked to ask for anybody’s help, and secondly, being involved in the punk rock scene made me fall in love with DIY ethics, and I realised that ‘if you want things done right, do it yourself’. Usually punk rock kids love merchandise; we have 1 pair of jeans, 50 band shirts and we spend all our parents money on merchandise (and beer) from the age of twelve. It was something that I’ve always wanted to do, and it’s a good way to make some money on your own.
If I wanted a Wasted Rita T-Shirt where would I have to look?
You can check my bigcartel (for some t-shirts leftovers fanzines) and my Society6 (for digital prints, apparel and other goodies).
In the meantime I’m working on a new project that involves printing and publishing material (fanzines, posters, apparel, anything that comes to my mind) from myself and other artists that I admire from around the world. The first super-limited-printed-in-my-tiny-little- room pieces will be coming out soon.
Will there be any shows outside of Portugal in the future that we will be able to see?
So far, I only have one (almost) confirmed exhibition outside Portugal, in Norwich, UK. But I’ll make sure that a few more international dates and cities pop up on my calendar soon. I am also planning an European Tour for 2013. I will try hard to make this happen, I’ll be the happiest kid on earth if it turns out real.