Retna, born Marquis Lewis, the street and studio artist picked his moniker from the lyrics of a Wu Tang song that resonated with him in his youth. Retna explains that he was inspired to pursue art after seeing graffiti on the freeway, and his practice now includes street art and painting on canvas.
Retna has become known for his long and geometric script, which he developed while looking towards Egyptian and Native American traditional symbols. American graffiti of the 70s also plays a main role in his work. He draws his inspiration from artists such as Richard Hambleton, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Barbara Kruger, Gustav Klimnt, Chaz Bojorquez.
Famous for his typography and his singular forms of letters, he mixes texts, photography, abstract painting and lines to create rich and complex compositions. His pieces combine elements of graffiti and fine arts. He uses all sorts of colours shades and his work is extremely meticulous. The final composition resembles striking and fascinating hieroglyphs.
He exhibits his work in prestigious galleries and museums of the world of art, in Los Angeles, Milan, Montréal and Malaga.
Though his marks resemble the calligraphy of multiple cultures (and he maintains that he composes his works in English and Spanish), the writing does not belong to a particular language. Retna explains, “I want my text to feel universal. I want people from different cultures to all find some similarity in it—whether they can read it or not.”