“Graffiti is just like any other activity or hobby except it's against the law.”
The artist Daek William (aka William Heerey) who is currently enjoying the fruits of his labor with his fourth solo gallery exhibition still connects with his roots as a street artist from the northern suburbs of Western Australia’s capital city, Perth, and more recently the art world’s Mecca, New York.
The 31 year old William became involved with art in his mid-teens decorating his local high school, unsupervised on the weekends.
As he told The Sunday Times’ Kristy Symonds in 2013 "I was just a suburban kid and I think I was just looking for something different to do. Carine (Senior High School) was near the beach and lots of people surfed and I couldn't surf. I wanted to do something different so I just did graffiti instead. There were a few guys who did it at school and it was sort of a big secret and it was sort of fun to go up and paint my school on the weekends and then come to school and pretend it wasn't me."
Although illegal it is an activity that William believes has some redeeming features. As he has explained “I think if it (graffiti) was legalized no one would do it because the fun thing is doing something you're not supposed to be doing and leaving your mark. I think in some ways it's a good activity I'd rather see people tagging walls than destroying themselves with drugs, especially at a young age. And a lot of guys who started out doing it illegally are now super successful artists."
The temporary nature of street art, it’s soon painted over either by the authorities or fellow artists, has given William a ‘suck it and see’ experimental attitude towards both his work "It's just awesome trying new things and seeing what you can get away with in a gallery," and his life.
William now spends half of the year in New York a city he first visited almost a decade ago. "Because I've done art and I don't have a degree I'm not really useful over there so getting a visa is really tough. I go on a B1 visa that has a clause in it for artists. You can go for a long period of time to paint, but you can't get money regularly.”
But it is an experience that has been good for his career in Perth.
As he explained to It’s Now Cool “I myself have been pushing art in Perth since 2005 but I have only been recognized for leaving this town. Basically Perth is a very very young city with small pockets of ‘culture’. You can’t compare this town to somewhere like the mecca of New York City. I mean come on! There's more people in Brooklyn alone than Perth...Oh and also there's no tower buildings of art studios here. Maybe we need more cheap rent, rather than $12 beers?"
Although now a gallery artist William maintains his street cred by doing wall murals for Northbridge bars for “a few free drinks” and exhibiting under his street name. About which he has said “Maybe my real name is Daek but it's so obscure that I needed a regular name...or possibly I'm just trying to hold on to my graffiti heritage for way too long. ughh! Two first names…What does it even mean!”
His current exhibition Daek William - The Sword and Society: A Fable is on show at Perth City’s Linton & Kay Galleries until the 15th of August.