On the side of an otherwise ordinary building in Melun, a south-eastern suburb of Paris, one can find an enormous, surreal image of a dolphin soaring out of the water and into the air. In Rochester, NY, a slithering dragon stretches out along a wall underneath a bridge for what seems an eternity. A majestic stag sits on a wall in Vienna while a horse can be found against chipboard in Tin Town, South Africa.
These pieces are the work of DALeast, the Chinese-born, South Africa-based graffiti artist who travels the world, viewing mundane, non-imposing walls as his canvases. The majority of his known work consists of large animals (often in the midst of stalking or hunting prey) drawn in his unique style that gives them the appearance of merely consisting of electrical wire (or even ‘tiny metal shards’) strung about in an intricate way.
DALeast, who hails from Wuhan, the self-proclaimed “next New York City”, confessed in an interview with Arrested Motion that he made the decision to become an artist and travel the world when he was three years old. After dropping out in his fourth year at Wuhan Sculpture in the Fine Art Institute due to his disillusionment with “conservative mind sets and teaching methods”, he focused more on his work with Wuhan graffiti crew JEJ, which he had joined while studying at the Institute.
As he said: “I worked on everything when I was in China – painting, sculpture, installations, synchronising performance, and digital art, but I only started painting in public spaces in 2004.”
As to the potential trouble with the law that his craft can get him into (especially in the country he grew up in), DALeast has said:
“It depends on different situations. It can be relaxing, but sometimes can be hectic. Once at five in the morning around 25 officers broke into our place, arrested me and my past graffiti crew mate MCG. It was just a few days before the Beijing Olympics and they thought we were terrorists after they saw us out all night bombing and tagging. The army and police were both a part of this drama. The mayor of the city finally decided to release us when he found out it was a misunderstanding. Things happen like that.”
When not traveling the world, DALeast lives in South Africa with his wife and fellow artist Faith47. He spoke of how it was difficult at first to adjust to the lifestyle there, but now his work is “inspired and developed by the nature in South Africa, and the lovely people there.”
As for his name, DAL provided the following explanation: “I remember I started using DAL when I started with graffiti. After a while, I started use DALEast for my other art forms. An interesting thing is that after I chose this name, I found different meanings of it. For example, I love Indian food, and ‘dal’ is big part of it, ‘dal’ means ‘from’ in Italian, and coincidentally I am from the ‘East’, and there is even a solar system called ‘DAL Universe,’ which has a higher existence which has visited our planet before.”
See the rest of his work here.
By Alex Stevens