Rose's works are characterized by an outstanding mix of graphic elements and symbols. Symbology plays a major role in the works in TOTEMS. The artist claims that life is nothing more than a dictionary of symbols: “We look to symbols everywhere to help us make sense of our existence. From the mundane to the mystical symbols are totems that give order to the chaos and also help define ourselves as a tribe.” Rather than use symbols for their intended significance, Rose always recontextualizes meanings in unexpected ways – creating abstract visuals composed of symbols invented and culled from the annals of visual history.
The works in TOTEMS deal with objects and feelings of desire, and how this relates to different aspects of spirituality – or artificial spirituality – that human beings use to get through the life experiment. Some of the works deal with religion and the tribal aspects of religious iconography, but not in a classical sense. The large faces in the works on canvas represent idols. They could be considered portraits of fictitious gods. The texts on each work relate specifically to various concepts of longing. This could be a desire for meaning, for inspiration, or for love, all of which are reasons that we as humans seek spiritual connection.
Kinetic sculptures arouse the viewer's attention by constantly spinning and lighting up. Therefore, Rose has refashioned classic barber poles, continuing his practice of painting discarded objects, such as suitcases, guitars, lamps and chairs. The “Barber Pole” sculptures relate to the human longing for sexual relation. Before these spinning poles became common at hair salons, they were actually the symbol for houses of prostitution on some countries. The graphic imagery on these poles represent the feelings of euphoria and oblivion that come with sex and speak to the way people idolize sex as an escape from reality. The fact that they light up and spin – like an electronic striptease – will highlight this idea.
A small suite of works on canvas depicting targets relate to alcohol and drugs, another form of spiritual searching. The repeated geometric imagery in each work is meant to represent the experience of intoxication, however these works contain a deeper message. In the center of each piece there is a target. In some ways these could be considered a homage to Jasper Johns, but in reality they are here to represent the unattainable goal. The target is an event on the horizon that we all strive for but rarely reach. It is for this reason that many find solace in spirituality. It fools us into thinking that there is sense in the world, and even though it may be a lie, like art, it’s quite possibly the one thing that humanity needs most.