‘The Horse & The Butterfly’ – Daco’s Graffaune at MJF Centre for Sustainable and Dignified Empowerment West, Moratuwa
By Aysha Maryam Cassim
Daco is a French urban artist whose geometry-inspired graffiti has been featured around the world from the subways of Paris to the streets of Valparaiso and Taipei.
A graduate of Fine Arts at the Ecoles des Beaux-Arts in Paris, Daco’s visual identity stands out with his unique, unstructured style. His series of abstract animals are named «Graffaune», a contraction of graffiti and faune (wildlife in English).
As a part of the month-long French Spring Festival organised by the French Embassy and Alliance Francaise de Kotte from 14 June to 14 July, Daco arrived in Sri Lanka as an intercultural ambassador to create a collection of Graffaune art around Colombo.
On 7 July, Daco was at Dilmah’s MJF Centre for Sustainable Development and Dignified Empowerment West in Moratuwa where he created a masterpiece and worked with children, teaching them alternative art techniques.
Dilmah’s MJF Charitable Foundation envisions it as a centre that provides opportunities for aspiring young artists from less advantaged backgrounds to explore their passion in all kinds of art forms. Children from MJF Charitable Foundation, Maligawatte and Peliyagoda centres, gathered in Moratuwa with Daco last Saturday to adorn a white wall with geometry-inspired designs and doodles.
It was the perfect opportunity for the participants to be creative and spontaneous with abstract art using bright, bold colours. After an art demonstration by Daco, the white space transformed into an accent wall with vibrant paints expressed in the form of geometric shapes, textures, drips and splatters.
Art can articulate thoughts, open minds and relieve stress. For the young people who took part in the Graffiti workshop, the experience was entertaining and inspiring. Ilha (15), who is a part of the MJFCF, Peilyagoda has won awards in All-Island Inter-School Art Competitions. Her painting was among the most admired.
“I painted a scenery using monochromatic colours. It took me about half an hour to complete this. This is the first time I got the freedom to draw on a wall and I wish I could do this again.”
There is a strong engagement between Daco›s artwork and those who perceive them. Spectators who witnessed Daco›s painting said that they were entranced by the evolution of ‘The Horse and The Butterfly’. “We felt connected with the whole process as the figures emerged into life from a flurry of spray paint and geometric forms,” said Priscilla, a budding artist.
“My family is truly grateful for Daco’s creation,” said Dilhan C. Fernando, CEO of Dilmah and Trustee of MJFCF. “Observing the process and meticulous attention to detail which went into the creation of the 3x3 metre piece was fascinating; I am particularly grateful for the addition of the butterfly into his art. The butterfly represents one of this island’s most threatened species and the efforts by Dilmah Conservation to tell their story and encourage people to protect Sri Lanka’s biodiversity.”
At the age of 16, Daco discovered his love for graffiti as an art form. Over the years, he has been working independently, creating art around the world. Most of Daco›s Graffaune continue to revolve around animals which he believes can always spark a positive reaction from the passers-by and people who inhabit the space. The term ‘abstract’ in art refers to depicting something in a more subtle and simplified way and Daco is a master at that. Daco derives inspiration from his surroundings. Incorporating complementary colours into geometric shapes, he often paints birds, frogs, monkeys, and other wild creatures.
He breaks away from the confines of realism and creates surreal animals that contrast with their urban and natural elements. The vibrant colour palette he uses stand out on the walls, perfectly capturing the animal spirit with life and movements.
For Daco, graffiti is an increasingly intimate and absorbing exercise. He feels very connected with what he does and puts a lot of thought and energy into what he creates. The process begins with the creation of a sketch on a paper which would later become the basis for Daco’s Graffaune painting.
In a relatively short amount of time, he melds different geometric shapes to create the frame of an animal. With an open, imaginative mind, Daco then fills the spaces with colours, letting the curious spectator enjoy the whole artistic execution. Nothing is complete until Daco – the perfectionist – takes his time to fine-tune his masterpiece with details.
Every Graffaune is a challenge for Daco which involves dealing with different people, places, culture and logistics. «Every destination is a challenge and a learning experience filled with memories. Travelling enriches my work and myself. I get to meet to meet interesting people, work with kids and create art with them. I want to deepen my potential and progress in the path that I am pursuing today,” says Daco.
“This is my second time in Sri Lanka and I have had an amazing time here. People are so warm and welcoming. I am overwhelmed by their reception. I feel good when I receive feedback from my art. Be it positive or negative, I think all kinds of reaction encourage me to do better. These animals I paint do not evoke any significance but I let people assign their own meaning to the piece. I believe that this makes the viewer really connect with my Graffaune.”