Ekphrasis: Ragamuffin Kips

To me, the art is actually in doing. The work that results, is essentially residue. It’s evidence of the creative act, of the art. – Ragamuffin Kips

Ragamuffin Kips in front of his work 'The Looking Glass'

What better place to meet a kilt-wearing, Samurai sword-wielding Neko artist than the beach of Emvee, Cuba?

Well, when you see the artwork of Ragamuffin Kips (real life Anthony Jacob), the locale makes sense.  The glorious light and rich textures of this community correlate very well with the images Kips creates. His pieces are intensely coloured, creamy pastels that he makes in RL, then rezzes and works further with layers and prim light.  The images themselves are very organic, evocative of dense jungles, or perhaps even dusty galaxies, with titles such as ‘The Jungle Line’, ‘Totem’ and ‘In Deepest Dreams’ that reveal the artist’s vision. The overall effect is a series of glowing dreamscapes of light and colour, the kinds of images one can easily sit and gaze at for a long, peaceful while.

'Ivy with Blue Sky', 2009. Pastel on paper, rezzed and primworked.

He told me a bit about his work while we sipped sangria to the strains of salsa drifting in on the breeze.  It was a fascinating conversation that ranged from thoughts on technique to existentialism, AM Radio, and Barnett Newman, and I think it bears repeating in it’s raw form here.

Derryth: Have you always made abstract works?

Kips: Mostly, yes, I became interested in abstraction as a young artist because I was interested in expressing emotions… when I’m working in RL, I work with the idea of setting my hands free to create. I don’t “think”, or try not to think, about composition or figure or form. My goal is to simply let my hands move, and allow the chalk or crayon to simply trace, or record that movement.

This is something that I feel is interesting in terms of SL art, since one isn’t touching anything in physical space but there’s a tactile sense to the work here. The new stuff I’ve been doing is concerned with exploring the margins, the space between the two worlds.

Derryth: How so?

Kips: Wow, it’s mostly an impulse, I guess, sort of a desire to bridge the space, connect the worlds kinda.

'Landfal' 2009, a collaborative piece between himself and friend and artist Lifecloud Waivrider. Hand drawn by both in pastels, rezzed and primworked.

Derryth: Is this new since [your earlier SL] paintings?

Kips: Well, what I’m talking about is the new stuff I’ve been doing with the imbedded prims and multiple surfaces.  My thought there, in retrospect, has been to try to create a surface that transitions my rl work into virtual space. The 2-D photograph of the drawing sort of dragged into virtual space using elements of both, if that makes any sense.

Derryth: Do you find that, knowing now that you may rez a drawing, that it affects your work in RL? Does it change the way you think about it I mean, thinking about how you might work it here?

Kips: Yeah, because I’m thinking now in terms of creating in the new space. The challenge for me has been to remain true to the act of creating the work rather than focusing on the end result. From past experience, that never works. As soon as I begin thinking in terms of product, the process is lost and the work is no longer free to move much.

Derryth: Ah, interesting.  But… it seems to have extended the act of creating. It begins in RL, then extends to SL.

Kips: Yeah, I’m coming to the new work with the idea of immersing it in virtual space naturally, the same way I’ve immersed myself here.. It’s an ongoing process, and I’m not really sure where it will take me. I’m just acting on an urge at this point. Since art, for me, has always come from my hands, I have to reconcile this problem of creating something that expresses that in this space. Sort of trying to push my hands into Second Life and draw here.

Derryth: So are there two processes then? You create in RL, and try not to think about SL. Then you bring it to SL, and work again?

Kips: Well, when I’m drawing in rl now, I have in my head this idea that I’ll be adding prims and multiple levels to the drawing, so as I draw, these objects and levels already exist in the work since I imagine them there. In a weird way, the creation flows in both directions.

Derryth: Ah, that is what I meant earlier, when I wondered if SL has affected your work.

Kips: Yes, in The Looking Glass, that was the first time it really came to me… in that drawing, I saw the two worlds fusingThey don’t exist entirely in either world. That’s the kinda cool thing to me, they have a foot in each.

'The Looking Glass', 2009. Pastel on paper, rezzed and primworked.

Derryth: And do you think they exist, then?

Kips: Yes, absolutely, but to me, the question is less important since the art is in the creation.  Not to get too philosophical, sorry…

Derryth: No apology necessary for that!

Kips: I guess you could say, they sort of ask the viewer to stretch her or his imagination from one world into the other a bit. The line between the “realities” becomes blurred.

Derryth: How long have you been making art here in SL?

Kips: Well, I began photographing my drawings and showing them here about two years ago. It was my main reason for coming here. But I realized a few months back that I was actually more interested in using virtual space as a medium and exploring its properties. I began seeing AM Radio, and Bryn Oh, and others.

Derryth: AM Radio is amazing.

Kips: Well, the first time I saw, The Far Away, just like almost everyone else, I was stunned… it was a revelation to me, nothing short of that. After thinking about why this affected me so strongly, I realized that it has something to do with the presence that he’s able to create, the feeling, the energy.  Hard to explain, and I don’t truly know how that relates directly to my work. All I can say is it gave me a sense of the possible.

Derryth: I think it relates well to your work because you are both able to capture an amazing sense of atmosphere… I want to walk through your paintings… dream in them.

Kips: Yes, thank you, that’s a wonderful compliment. I do feel a sense of depth in them that the RL drawings can’t have on their own.

'Left of Harper', 2009. Pastel on paper, rezzed and primworked.

Derryth: Which RL artists inspire you?

Kips: The Abstract Expressionists mostly… Barnett Newman, Pollock, Gottlieb, Rothko, and the rest.  The Modernists, and their ideas on mystery, the sublime, primitivism. Before the postmodern age… (laughs) these artists still had an idea of universal understanding and the collective consciousness that I find appealing.

Derryth: Ha! Down with postmodernism! (winks)

Kips: (laughs) It’s impossible to discredit or overcome a movement that refuses to assert anything.

Derryth: An excellent point!

Kips: I wish I could write about my own art like Newman did…not that my work’s on par with Newman’s. (laughs).  He’s one of those guys that you read and see his work and it affects you in a very profound way. Anyone who’s ever stood in front of one of those f*cking things, if they’re at all awake, can’t help but be shaken a little.

Derryth: Wow, strong statement, I like it!

Kips: You know that his works have been assaulted in museums? Twice, I think.

Derryth: Ah, but he isn’t alone in that, people are mental.

Kips: Well, Newman’s are abstractions, simple color fields and “zipps.” What could move someone to react that way to them? I know, in a sense, because I have stood there in front of them… pretty amazing.

Barnett Newman (American, 1905–1970) 'Concord', 1949. Oil and masking tape on canvas 89 3/4 x 53 5/8 in. (228 x 136.2 cm). Collection: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, George A. Hearn Fund, 1968 (68.178) © Barnett Newman Foundation

Derryth: I find it fascinating that you have that response, because he doesn’t do it for me.

Kips: Well, it’s not anger for me, but Newman’s work expands into the world in the same way that I would like for my works to. It affects the space around it. To me anyway.

Derryth: Your work does that for me more than Newman’s.

Kips: Let me give you a quote, just a sec… (shuffles through his virtual notebook) “The basis of an aesthetic act is the pure idea. But the pure idea is, of necessity, an aesthetic act. Here then is the epistemological paradox that is the artist’s problem. Not space cutting nor space building, not construction nor Fauvist deconstruction; not the pure line, straight and narrow, nor the tortured line, distorted and humiliating; not the accurate eye, all fingers, nor the wild eye of dream, winking; but the idea-complex that makes contact with mystery — of life, of men, of nature, of the hard, black chaos that is death, or the grayer, softer chaos that is tragedy. For it is only the pure idea that has meaning. Everything else has everything else.” This is Newman’s writing.

Derryth: What year, do you know?

Kips: Hmmmm, no, I don’t know. Shouldn’t be hard to find out, though.

Derryth: (consults her iPhone) 1947.  Excerpted from “The Ideographic Picture,” Betty Parsons Gallery, NY, Jan 20 – Feb 8, 1947.  Good ol’ Google.

Kips: Ahhh, excellent! (laughs) Where would we be without it??

Where indeed, with so much rich inspiration at our fingertips.  And Kips’ work is also just a click away… his new art exhibit “Prims on Paper” just opened at Nantucket Square, and he also has a display of work that just opened at Pirats’ La Manufacture, alongside others such as Chrome Underwood and Filthy Fluno. And after a long time of being represented by the Red Star Gallery in Bay City, Kips finally decided to open his own studio up beneath his living quarters, a converted dockside warehouse in Avalon.  The building itself is worth a look if you like conversions, and the vivid colour of Kips’ work is strong enough to make a statement against the rich red brick walls.

Kips' primworked art on display in his stunning new studio in Avalon.

My only criticism of Kips work is that he has set the price of his work far below its value, to my eye.  I highly recommend collectors to add his work to their collections before this unassuming Neko understands just how good – and how rare – his work is.


  1. Fantastic article Rowan! I’ve been a Ragamuffin fan since he first come to SL and find his work both inspiring and tantalizing.

    I look forward to your future post..

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