The sound of a shaking trashcan and the scent of spray painted freedom of expression is at the very core of anonymous graffiti artist GASAK. The inspiration behind his work stems from his passion for exposing political ills and replacing this with a vision of colour; an image of hope. GASAK is more than a graffiti artist that enjoys the occasional spray here and there. GASAK is empowerment, education, inspiration and, as he refers to it, “a visual attack”.
Much of this anonymous artist’s works are located in beautifully obscure places that hold significance in so many different forms, shapes and sizes. He explained that his work is not about who he is and who he represents, but rather the actual message that he portrays through his art. A true diamond in the rough, GASAK is reminiscent of Banksy in the UK but has expressed that their styles and their visions are different. Both artists are extremely visceral in their work, but GASAK has a grittier feel and his use of a rainbow of spray paints create a childlike catharsis. It becomes difficult to describe a visual attack. I, as the journalist, look at his work and the attack is cleverly evident but is also extremely appealing to the eye in a rebellious way. Ambivalence, honesty, and clever puns are central to his work that spans South Africa and a number of international spots. In addition to this artist making waves in the 031 and abroad is the fact that whenever GASAK is painting politically he utilizes one of two masks: a Nelson Mandela mask and a Barak Obama mask. The simple and powerful message behind this is the fact that he is highlighting the two “finest” leaders in society, providing a message, within his main message, that good leadership is essential to eradicating the current corruption that is rife not only in South Africa, but all over the world. This trait is bold and it sets this spray genius apart from the rest.
What inspired GASAK? The calling was there from a tender age with the realisation that there were, and are, genuine issues out there. These issue became prominent and pertinent to his growth as a man and an artist, and as the calling beckoned- the choice to proactively act became a necessity. “I had to express what I felt around me and expressing my thoughts through a spray came naturally. I felt a sense of power and freedom.” The inspiration to paint, he explained, “Many things in life have inspired me to paint! It just depends on how I feel at that moment in time. What inspires me and drives my passion is being able to walk into a dull township that has a high crime rate and where many people live in poverty and be able to paint a colourful painting and be able to add colour and hope to a community that needs it most.”
GASAK’s first love is spray paint and plays a significant role in who he is today. This is his central medium but he enjoys painting with oils too. His fearless approach to using colour and making the act of spraying look easy is an absolute wonder. Only the gifted could stand in front of a dead wall and bring it to life without so much as a stencil or eraser. With this said, GASAK has had no formal training whatsoever. He explained, “The streets taught me what I know today and I’m grateful it happened that way. It’s been an interesting journey so far.” What you see is what you get and this artist has mastered his art through pure talent, determination and his exceptionally strong faith and belief that there is still light and love in the world.
Currently residing in Durban GASAK has a love for this stunning sea side city we call home. When asked about the 031 and his favourite spots he said, “It’s a beautiful city that has so much to offer- you just have to go out there and find it. My favourite parts of Durban are Inanda and Kwa Mashu Township.” Throughout the time GASAK has travelled South Africa and beyond, he has had an immense excitement override any fear for a project. This spray legend beamed as he reminisced upon his past works. Two of his most pivotal works are:
One: Digging for diamonds (United Kingdom): “I got invited to paint in the United Kingdom at one of the largest street art events in Europe that was held for the Queens Diamond jubilee. I decided to take the opportunity and visually attack the queen over her diamond jubilee and painted a portrait of her with her finger up her nose (with the visual pun of digging for diamonds) as I believe the 2nd biggest diamond in the World, the Cullinan Diamond, belongs back in South Africa. It was broadcast on BBC and I left the country the next day.
Two: Face The Peace (USA – Mexico): “I created a project called ‘Face the Peace’ where I visually attacked the largest criminal organization in the world by painting large scaled portraits of peace leaders in the murder capital- to bring peace and awareness to the drug war where over 55 000 people have been murdered to date.”
It is cause for surprise that this artist is not one of our highly publicized gems, but as he has chosen anonymity the messages behind his work are forever immortalised within the natural and unnatural canvases he has chosen. As noted, GASAK is largely influenced by politics. When asked about what fuels his political passion he explained,
“Many things drive my passion politically. I have no fear for expressing myself and while many are afraid, I go out there and voice my opinion on an object or surface by visually attacking leaders I dislike or disagree with. Justice needs to be served to those that are destroying our beautiful country we all call home. Power to the people! Change will come!”
To name a few pieces that GASAK has created:
- Face to inspire (Kwa Mashu)
- Face the Peace (United States and Mexico)
- Upfest (UK)
- African Days (Lithuania)
- Biffi (Italy)
The sky is the limit for GASAK. He paints a path off stars in the sky to a brighter tomorrow. When asked his motto he smiled and said, “Be inspired by what you love and by doing that you’ll get to the top! – Gasak