Yugen collaborates with local artists to conceptualize the ancient Japanese concept of “Yugen”. Through their creations they illustrate their unique interpretation of this concept. It is their personal tribute to the beauty of the natural world and the wonder of the subtle details of life.
In this ongoing series, we ask each illustrator a number of questions: Who are they, what is the story behind their design, and what does the future hold? Let's dive deep into their minds and join them in their imaginary world of wonders.
Who is Bue The Warrior a.k.a. Dave De Rop?
Dave was born into an
artist family. His father and grandfather were both employees of Willy
Vandersteen. So Dave grew up with comics and cartoons. He was taught drawing
from an early age.
When Dave was 13 years old he moved with his mother from Antwerp back to Ghent. He spent his childhood "on the streets". He still carries the influence of the hip hop and skate culture. "The subculture has shaped me and the creativity and music from back then formed the foundation for who I am now". Although his skateboard is currently mainly a design element, “breaking arms and legs just doesn't sound so attractive anymore”, the creative vibe in the scene has shaped his artistic future and recognizable graffiti style.
What's Bue his style?
He describes his style as “simple, super recognizable, naive, childlike, positive and with good vibes”. Rightly so, every person from Ghent is familiar with Bue's playful birds. You see them everywhere and every time you wish they could whistle too. They have since become his trademark, or “tag” in the graffiti scene. But unlike classic tags that are often labelled as vandalism, Bue's drawings are received as art.
Individuals or companies that approach Dave do this mainly because of his own unique style. Dave does not have to follow guidelines, "I’m not a graphic designer who has to execute the exact wishes of the customer, people mainly contact me for Bue, not for Dave". Dave does not consider himself the most talented artist, but he has created something that is recognizable and unique. His work is not politically or socially critical, but that’s not necessary, "of course I could also make a coronavirus piece, but that's too easy." He likes to see his own style evolve over time, just as other big names like Hergé (Tintin) or Peyo (Smurfs) have also experienced an evolution within their own context.
What's Dave’s creative focus currently?
Dave emigrated to
Mexico in 2015, his artistic peak in Belgium. A bold and unknown step. Artists
in Belgium are generally paid better than in Mexico. But Dave was never
motivated by money alone. The appeal of the country was just too big and adventure
"In Mexico, they also call me - The Birdman". In his own restaurant "Holly Waffles" and at local farmers markets he sells his merchandise and art, often to people who first recognize his work before his alter ego "Bue". He believes it’s more spontaneous when his drawings are recognized because of the style than because of the tag. "I don't care about fame, which is why I don't always sign my work with Bue. As long as people like it, that’s the most important." Mexico has an impressive art scene. Despite the fact that his name and fame is global, he still feels like a small fish. Some of the current hot artists in the mural and street art community were still kids when Dave was already an established name. "I've been around for a long time, the fact that I get respect today from artists 100x bigger than myself is because I influenced a lot of people." Today's young artists are also evolving much faster, mainly thanks to the internet and better equipment.
To earn money in his new town, Dave opened a waffle restaurant/art gallery named “Holly Waffles”, with his now ex-girlfriend. “Most people who come to eat waffles don't have a clue that the art on the walls is mine. I don’t care, I'm not one of those artists who desperately wants to be THE artist. Actually, I don't consider myself an artist, but just someone who draws a lot. Every Friday, other ‘artists’ also exhibit in the restaurant. ”
After five years of baking waffles in Mexico City, Dave is opening a second location in Reno (USA). “An opportunity, because my family who lives there wants to help with the start-up. This time with trained chefs and managers, because after 6 months flying back and forth things should be up and running over there.” Because of the current Corona measures, both the restaurant in Mexico City and the project in Reno have been shut down. Dave uses his free time to paint a lot in preparation for his new expo.
What’s the story behind the Yugen design?
The skull naturally represents death. But death is celebrated in Mexico, not mourned. “A skull here is not directly associated with Satan, the devil or metal. In Mexican culture, death is seen as a natural part of the human cycle. They honour and celebrate death during the day of the dead or “Día de Muertos”. Mexicans don't consider it a day of grief, but a holiday, because their loved ones wake up and celebrate with them. After death comes life.” That eternal cycle is an essential part of all life on Earth. He wanted to impart the natural rhythm of life and death, and the beauty of something that is no longer there, in the design. "I recently saw a photo of a dead fox where the empty eye cavities served as some kind of natural vase for flowers, a perfect example that even death can create beautiful opportunities."
Especially in these exceptional times of pandemic and fear, it’s comforting to realize that the world is always evolving. Life will always be there, with or without our own person. “All the panic that exists now comes from the selfishness of man. Maybe we are going to get sick and die. Maybe we deserve this, check what we’re doing to the planet. It doesn't sound fun if I had to die, especially now that I have a little one, but fuck it. In the end, I also participated in the misery of Mother Earth. It’s a reality check. It's not just about us.”
Why did Dave move to Mexico?
A series of chance encounters made Dave fall in love with this country and its mighty capital. In 2007 he was painting a mural in Hollywood with his partner Chase, another Belgian international graffiti artist when a lady from Puerto Vallarta (Mexico) admired their work. “The gods supposedly sent her to us to paint a wall in her city too. Everything was arranged a month later: sponsors, plane, resort and fee.” Dave enjoyed the vibe of west coast Mexico, he wanted to see more, but it would take until 2009 before he set foot a second time. This time after an invitation from a fan from Mexico City whom he had met a few years earlier in the Hoogpoort in Ghent. “From then on, I returned every year, for exhibitions and other assignments, before finally moving in 2015. What a rollercoaster that was. After two months my girlfriend took off, she didn't like it anymore, while we were supposed to open the restaurant together. The newspaper said, "Bue is going to Mexico". At the point, I couldn't go back to Belgium, I'm too proud for that.”
What’s a personal Yugen moment for Dave?
“I don’t need much. Little things make me happy. Like going to the beach and watching the sunset. I enjoy that intensely. Or seeing my tomatoes grow and then making fresh gazpacho with them. I think it's crazy that such tiny seeds hold so much life. Standing on top of the Teotihuacan temple in Mexico City is definitely also a Yugen moment for me.”