Javier De Riba: Deceptive Tiling In Derelict Buildings

© Javier de Riba
© Javier de Riba
Photo of Remy Millar
21 December 2016

Catalonia-based designer Javier de Riba was born in Barcelona and works in the surrounding area. He is part of the Reskate Arts & Crafts Collective, which develops graphics and communication projects with a focus on sustainability and humane treatment. We talk to him about his project, Floors, discuss the logistics of spray painting abandoned buildings, and find out why the message is in the medium.

Hi Javier. Could you tell us a little about your background?

I studied graphic design and in 2010 with Mará López and Edu Pi and I started a project called Reskate Boards & Illustrators. It’s about recycling skates. We take old skateboards and reshape them, sand them and give to visual artists to customize them. This direct contact with illustrators, painters and visual artist makes me learn a lot and start developing my art.

Can you describe what you do in 3 words?

Think the medium.

How did the idea of floor work on abandoned buildings come about?

It all started in one festival that we participated in with my Reskate collective (www.reskatestudio.com). We painted a wall in an overthrowed building in Barcelona. We realised that there were broken tiles and we decided to paint on it like the typical tiles of the Catalan Countries. The history is nice because this kind of art was taken for the middle class of the Catalan society as a democratization of art. Art to step on it.

What is the influence behind the vibrancy of the colour and pattern you use?

At the end of the 19th century, hydraulic mosaic factories began to appear in the Catalan countries. Many homes in this area feature this type of tile, and I have lived with them all my life. They add personality and fill the space with a unique rhythm. I’ve work with geometrical patterns because it was the first kind of designs that appears. Are synthetic way to represent flowers. Each tile is identical, but the repetition generates new forms, born out of how each of the tiles join and intersect. Like in abandoned tiled floors, flowers usually appear between the tiles. Is for this reason that the name of this project is “FLOORS,” comes not only from the use of flooring as a canvas, but also from “flors,” the Catalan word for flower.

Have you ever been told to remove your work due to permission?

No. As I work in abandoned places I don’t use to have problems. I choose spaces really quiets. Once, the owner comes but only to tell me that please don’t go to dangerous places of the building because the roof was falling.
My interventions tries to integrate with the environment and not to disturb anyone.

How did people helping you with your Floors project come about? Do you find that people want to be part of the project, or do you ask for volunteers?

A lot of people ask me if they can join, but for now I prefer doing it alone. Well, sometimes my partner of Reskate, Minuskula helps me or just accompanies me.

When did you realise your artwork was creating a buzz and that people were taking notice?

One day I started receiving a lot of messages and likes. It was because one blog called Journal du Design shared my project- it all started with them.

Do you have a favourite project and why?

Wow! It’s like talking about children (that I don’t have!) Each project let me develop in a different way. I always try to broke my own style and it makes each project enjoyable. One of my last works that I enjoyed a lot was the Varnish project. I recollected wooden boards from the street, sanded them and varnished them with different layers to get different densities.

"Surface Matters" Round n°2 #Varnish #Barcelona #varnishproject

A photo posted by Javier de Riba (@javierderiba) on

How long does it take for you to complete an artwork? Have you developed a process for it?

I don’t spend much time painting. I work more previously and later than painting; previously taking measures and looking for the localization, then making the stencil. Sometimes I paint over various days/nights. Each day one layer (one colour) but other times i do the same day/night. It depends on where the action is. The biggest one that I did, I spent 8 hours painting with kneepads. In the end I spend time taking photos and sometimes video editing. The documentation of this action showing the space is a big part of the project.

"Oreneta" 2015. #floorsproject

A photo posted by Javier de Riba (@javierderiba) on

If you had to choose any building in the world (abandoned or occupied) to spray paint your artwork onto, what would it be and why?

I love abandoned places, it’s part of my inspiration but of course there are a lot of sad walls in cities. In Barcelona, Wien, Budapest and Romania there are a lot of nice big walls that I want to work on. I hope that things change in Barcelona and I can offer my work to the city often.

Is there any other style of work you would like to explore?

A lot! I will see what the future projects ask and try to work for them. I believe that the medium is the message. So when I find a message to share I will look for the medium that best expresses the message.

What is the effect of interest on your work when you share it in social media?

It’s good! I love that a lot of people look at the forgotten corners of the city. My aim is to focus the attention on forgotten corners. In South Europe we are living in a strong housing crisis. There are houses without people and people without houses. It’s time to change it!

What projects are you currently working on?

I’m developing projects with Reskate Arts & Crafts like the project called Harreman. It’s about photo-luminescent paint. On my own I’m finding new places to paint floors and making pieces in vegetable parchment to sell and can keep on doing this project.

"Bungalow" 2014. #floorsproject

A photo posted by Javier de Riba (@javierderiba) on

What medium do you prefer to work with? Spray paint, paint, pencil, crayon? And your favourite canvas? Paper, wood, floor or wall?

I love all of them. I think that the point is to diversify and take each medium an canvas with the motivation of the first time.

Who or what influences you?

Looking at how others work. I’m thankful that with internet I can see really good people and meet them. Collaborating with people inspires me a lot.

How would your work like to be remembered?


Do you see other designers copying your ideas? If so, how do you deal with this?

Sometimes but I’m sure that for another designer I’m copying theirs. I don’t think it’s a problem to copy and develop ideas that you see to make artistic projects. It makes the world grow and become more rich artistically. The problem is if you want to make money with designs that are not yours.

Where can we see your work? Do you share the locations of your designs so people can visit them?

In the exhibition that I did in Miscelanea Gallery I shared the locations of the spaces. At the moment I don’t share it on the Internet but maybe I’ll start doing that.

What can we expect to see in the future from Javier de Riba de Urrutia?

I don’t know! I do not even know. It makes me move to discover what’s next. It’s thrilling!

Thanks so much for talking to us, Javi. We are very excited to see what the future holds for you!

Don’t forget to check out Javi online. You can find him on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Behance, and his very own website. You can find The Culture Trip on Instagram too!

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