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Street Art

Concrete jungle: How street artist Dared brightens up Berlin

Walking around Berlin, you've likely spotted one of Dared's signature animal characters pasted up somewhere.

Photo: Makar Artemev

If you’ve ever spotted a French bulldog, a fox or a bat on the side of a Berlin building, chances are you’re looking at Dared’s work. The street artist has created a cast of furry friends that recur across Berlin, pasted up on walls across town.

I certainly don’t make a living from this. Rather, it makes a living from me, because I sacrifice everything to keep it alive.

The French bulldog was Dared’s first character, inspired by his friend’s charismatic dog Phatty. Dared’s cartoon Phatty was given similar human-like attributes: he is cosy, sporty, likes to dress up – a little bit like a Berliner, he says. “I practically grew into a street artist with Phatty’s figure. For the first three years, I only kept developing him. That’s the reason you can see more of him than the others,” explains Dared. 

Even though he made his name through his paste-ups, Dared originally started his street art career as a teenage graffiti artist, leaving his mark on the grey walls of Marzahn, where he grew up. “I was a skinny kid and didn’t belong to any of the graffiti groups, I kept to myself and went out alone to tag,” he says. “There were these bigger gang guys looking for me when the first ‘Dared’ [tags] appeared.”

Photo: Makar Artemev

In early adulthood, he swapped nighttime graffiti for a degree in design. His passion for street art remained dormant for about a decade, until he came across Graffiti Lobby Berlin, who hosted an event at RAW that Dared was invited to create a project for. There, he came into contact with street artists from all over the world and learned that “you can help shape urban space without letters using brushes and paint. [One of the people I met] organised artist meetings in abandoned places to paint together. Here, I swapped the spray cans of the vandal for the brush of the artist.”

Photo: Dared

Dared’s paste-up Phattys began appearing in 2017. Like he did when he was a teenager, Dared hit the streets on his own when putting up his Phatty pictures, usually venturing out around 3am and working until the sun rose. In those quiet hours of the morning he would often come across urban foxes, looking for food on the streets of Berlin, which is how his next character, Faye the fox, came to life. “It was clear the fox would have to be female because women are smarter! In most cultures, foxes have a very positive meaning too, and while Phatty, as man’s best companion, represents humans, Faye’s figure developed to be in between the worlds of wild animals and people,” explains the artist.

Photo: Makar Artemev

Soon after the feminine, flirty figure of Faye appeared on the walls of the city came another common urban animal: Batsy the bat, who is goofier and science-oriented and represents vision in Dared’s world. The anthropomorphised characters are often pictured holding a glass of wine (Phatty), dancing (Faye) or reading (Batsy), but there’s more than meets the eye. “Batsy shadows Faye, ensuring her safety as she navigates unseen paths and protects the delicate balance of this mystical haven,” Dared says, explaining how he views his characters.

“Together, they form a harmonious tapestry, where nature and humanity intertwine in the secret brilliance of the Red Forest.” The Red Forest is an imaginary land he’s created, the one Faye, Phatty and Batsy live in. Dared’s goal is to create a mirror to our society, and to create tales around his heroes that surprise the audience and draw them out of their everyday lives and struggles, he says. “It’s a service. I certainly don’t make a living from this. Rather, it makes a living from me, so to speak, because I sacrifice everything to keep it alive.”

Photo: Makar Artemev

To plan his pasting, Dared walks around looking for inviting spots, and once he has 7-12 pieces ready to go, he heads out at night to brighten those spots. The cartoon style he’s perfected leans more towards Japanese anime, but he is also influenced by anthroposophical art and by the time he spent living in India. “I actually started Phatty after leaving India. I really liked the idea of having so many gods who are like acquaintances and people have such a normal interaction with spirituality. Through that they manage to be more empathetic and aware of their surroundings. That’s very inspiring!”

Dared’s work is now all over the world, pasted up during travels in Texas, Paris, London and Mallorca. He also holds workshops for aspiring artists in stencil-making and character development, and every once in a while he gets commissioned to do private pieces as well; he’s currently working on the facade of a new café in Kreuzberg. And soon, new characters may join Phatty and the gang: he has plans for a squirrel and an imaginative animal that will be developed entirely by him. Keep an eye on the walls – it’s a jungle out there.