For decades, Falko One (previously) has been transforming blank staircases and piles of refuse around South Africa into homes for his technicolor elephants. Despite their striking hues, each mural is site-specific, allowing it to blend in with the facades and surrounding environments. The artist might position the trunk along a ventilation duct or the torso atop cinder blocks and crates, creating an optical illusion within his vivid murals. “My approach is just to add a bit of color to the space without breaking the scenery,” he tells Colossal. “I try not to make them too intrusive. I always respect that for that moment I am just a tourist to that specific community.”
Generally, the artist finds viewers are drawn in by the colors before considering the ways the elephant bends and conforms to the structured space. “The value for me is listening to the debate about it. At that moment, there are no wrong or right answers. What better way to get people to discuss something without telling them to discuss it. It’s not a formal discussion on the street but playful, honest banter. I like that the most,” he notes.
Often sharing his latest murals on Instagram, the artist’s motivation for painting the massive pachyderms is simple and about accessibility. “Everyone loves an elephant,” he says. To travel around Africa with Falko One, check out this documentary (NSFW) by Red Bull Media House about his work.
Do stories and artists like this matter to you? Become a Colossal Member today and support independent arts publishing for as little as $5 per month. You'll connect with a community of like-minded readers who are passionate about contemporary art, read articles and newsletters ad-free, sustain our interview series, get discounts and early access to our limited-edition print releases, and much more. Join now!