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.
“Evergreen” (2018), Cape Town, South Africa
“Brick Ross” (2020), Cape Town, South Africa
“Broke back boat” (2019), Praia, Cape Verde Islands
“Heavy metal” (2019), Johannesburg, South Africa
“Homestead” (2016), Nkandla, South Africa
“Perioscope” (2019), Johannesburg, South Africa
“Welcome home” (2016), Coffee Bay, South Africa
“What have you done for me lately” (2019), Cape Town, South Africa
“Wheel of fortune” (2019), Praia, Cape Verde Islands