Video by: Terry Pratt
Photos by: Carlos Gonzalez
Words by: Duke DuRock
The internationally acclaimed street art by the German duo, Herakut, has been turning heads since they first formed in 2004. Both The Do LaB and Do ArT Foundation were thrilled to have the creative team of Jasmin Siddiqui (AKA Hera) and Falk Lehman (AKA Akut) come to our warehouse at Big Art Labs in downtown Los Angeles for a special project. Over two days they took over one of the massive white walls, painting a beautiful mural that will provide endless inspiration to the many creative minds that work there for years to come.
“We’ve been doing collaborative projects together for awhile,” explained Carmen Zella, Executive Director for the Do ArT Foundation, the non-profit social enterprise founded by The Do LaB. “The synergy has always been there because this creative community has a similar aesthetic and really gets where Herakut is coming from.”
“We met Carmen Zella a couple of years ago at an opening of one of our solo shows in Los Angeles, so we just kept in touch,” added Siddiqui of the project’s origins. “We paint walls and Carmen found an amazing wall for us. It’s crazy that you can take two people from a completely different part of the world, put them here and in two days make them feel so at home and comfortable. That does reflect on the people here because they are very open and they welcomed us so much that we felt free enough to find our flow and inner child.”
How the Latest Herakut Mural Came Together
Zella along with Bryan Foley, a longtime member of The Do LaB, who also serves as the Director of Operations for the Do ArT Foundation, were both highly instrumental in bringing Herakut to Big Art Labs.
“For this project, we were thinking about what artist would inspire this community the most,” explained Zella. “It was a connection of timing as well because Herakut was coming to L.A. for another project and we sort of leveraged that and asked them if they would be the first artists to come in and kind of set the bar for this particular space because it’s a really amazing creative art environment with a lot of people working in it daily.”
“The first time I met Falk was at Coachella this year when he did a piece for us without Jasmin,” added Foley. “My job within both The Do LaB and Do ArT Foundation is a lot of artist interaction and building their canvases for them to paint on. When I started formulating the idea of putting murals up all over the Big Art Labs space using artists that the Do ArT Foundation and The Do LaB had connections with, it was sort of a synchronistic idea. At the same time, the Big Art management was looking for artists, so when I proposed the idea to them, I had thought that it was going to be met with a little bit of resistance, but they were into it from the start.”
Foley pushed hard for the founders of Big Art Labs to allow Herakut to have carte blanche on the wall. After Siddiqui and Lehmann drew up a rough sketch based on walking the Big Art Lab grounds and feeling the creative energy, the concept was approved and with it came unconditional trust in the duo. Over the course of 48 hours, Herakut turned one of the massive white walls into one of their exquisite creations, full of colorful characters that were all intricately designed through their use of spray paint, rollers and a dash of dirty water, which they allow to naturally drip.
“We base our work on unconditional trust because we don’t want to work in a space where people do not trust us because that’s the wrong spirit,” shared Siddiqui. “It’s all about respect and when we came here, we realized there’s already so many creative things going on, so we shouldn’t be too loud and just try to fit in as opposed to dominate. Choose colors that go well with the space.”
“We could have just taken buckets of crazy bright colors and primed the whole wall with it,” she further added. “But we thought there are so many crazy creatures already living here so we’ll just visualize some of them on the wall. We also added a shade, so it actually looks as though they are walking on the grounds in front of the wall. These are all things that happened in our minds and in the dialogue between the two of us. You can’t plan that. It just happens and you have to go with it. We really like this wall and we’re not lying when we say everyone here made it easy. It felt so liberating and good to just paint. To be free and childlike was just a joy.”
Complimenting Art Styles
Siddiqui and Lehmann have been making massive contributions to the street art world since first teaming together in 2004. As workers at Big Art Labs witnessed, the two pair perfectly as each brings a different artistic element to the table.
“We met up at graffiti festival in Spain,” Lehmann recalled. “We were both booked and realized there that our styles work very closely together. Our personalities are Yin and Yang though. Jasmin gives the anatomy of our figures and I give them skin texture to put it simply.”
Siddiqui added, “I don’t take over his parts and he doesn’t take over mine. I don’t even know how to do his! We are specialists who are in no competition at all. Once we figure it out together, we can do twice as much. Four hands are better than two. At the end of the day, it’s always better to not be alone and same thing applies with success. You want to party with someone or have someone there to remember the wall.”
Dark and Beautiful Creations
Herakut has received international acclaim for their art work which also borders on the macabre with many of their characters donning massive animal heads as hats that wouldn’t seem out of place in the world of say, Tim Burton.
“Every one of us sort of grew up with the same influences, storybooks, cartoons and all that,” shared Siddiqui of Herakut’s creative influences. “Out of all these things we’ve seen, we’ve probably picked and chosen whichever ones worked well with our understanding of aesthetics. The morbid side to this has a lot to do with the technique we use because we always try to incorporate the natural flow of water, as it drips. To let that happen and not cover the drips means that we allow physics to happen. We don’t fight against nature there. We apply loose splashes of water and simply see where they go. That’s something that perfect animated cartoon characters don’t have. It’s about letting things happen, so that it always adds a morbid side because that shows nature. Everything fades and we let it happen. So I guess that’s why there’s some melancholy to our work.”
Siddiqui added, “We use animal disguises, hats or costumes as a symbol for a symbol. What do they stand for? So we’d ask people, ‘On this wall, what does the elephant head represent?’ It’s gentle, smart and it’s a herd animal too. It carries a lot of weight and is strong. It’s the biggest hat on the wall and that’s because it’s the role of the founders of Big Art Labs. They built all of this on their backs just as our elephant carries the characters as support for all these little creatures that are surrounding him.”
Not only do Herakut paint massive murals, but they also bring their trademark character’s to life through sculpted animal hats and complete costumes. They are currently planning a special Los Angeles show in Chinatown for January 21, 2012, where they will take over Le Basse Projects art gallery, inviting audiences into their living room so-to-speak, complete with the help of The Do LaB. Members of Lucent Dossier Experience will be wearing Herakut’s creations while embodying the spirit of the characters to coincide with the release of the duo’s second book, “After the Laughter,” which will pick up where their first critically-acclaimed book, “The Perfect Merge” left off.
“We don’t see our characters as flat, two dimensional ones,” shared Siddiqui. “We know how they move and we see them animated when we think about them. So we thought why not see them actually move into the room and perform a dance. We’re excited as we’ve never seen that but believe that it can happen. We love surprising each other, so it’s going to be an experiment for us as much as our audience.”
“We are very excited,” she added of the book’s imminent release. “When we had “The Perfect Merge” come out in 2008, it showed in chronological order our first four years together. Now this one is again chronologically put together from 2009-2011. It feels like a journal in a way. It’s our personal scrapbook where we collected every piece that we thought were important to us personally. That’s what makes this book so special. It’s showing the behind-the-scenes of our work and not just glossy images. When you put together a project like this, you get the chance to reflect back on your journey. It’s good to do that every once and awhile.”
Daily Inspiration at Big Art Labs
“It’s a testimony to the skill, artistry and just how talented these guys truly are,” marveled Zella. “I’ve seen it in a lot of their projects and it just constantly continues to amaze me how their skill and ability to create something purely out of their vast imaginations right on the spot.”
“I really think this is the first step in a long and really amazing collaboration together,” Foley shared. “It’s a random connection that’s grown and I think that it’s one of those beautiful examples of synchronicity where people end up in the same space and are able to magnify each others work. Nobody had any idea of what it was going to turn into. I thought it was going to be a tiny piece compared to what it is now. Every time we thought it was done, Jasmin and Falk just kept painting more. So as far as I’m concerned now, this whole section of the building is theirs. Every time they come through the city, they’re welcome to come back to paint and do more.
He added, “I come here every day for work and what I stared at was white walls. Now I get to come and look at this. There are so many characters in this piece. They’re staring at you, staring at each other and emoting. What it comes down to, every time I stood in front of the crowd that was watching the painting, I looked back and everybody was smiling. That’s what it’s all about and now I get to smile every time I come into work.”
Are you a fan of Herakut’s work? Be sure to watch this space for details of their January show in Los Angeles along with the release of their new book, “After the Laughter.” Tell us what you think of their mural in the comment section below.
You can also check out more of Herakut’s work at: http://www.herakut.de/