Interview with streetartist Sudalove
Also known as ‘Sudalove’, Assil Diab is a Sudanese Visual Artist, Graphics Designer and Graffiti Artist born in Romania and based in Doha, Qatar.
Her work consists of mixed media and painting canvases using nothing but spray paint, “Graffiti on Canvas”, as well as graffiti murals. She exhibited her artwork at Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar, local hotels in Qatar including Grand Regal Hotel and Grand Hyatt Hotel and Gallery 5 in Richmond, Virginia In 2015 Assil was invited by Red Bull Qatar to attend an opening of ‘Urban Nest’ their very own Art Space in Bahrain called Malja where she painted a XO graffiti piece on their yard. She also exhibited her “What About Africa” piece, made entirely of spray-painted, recycled water bottles and “Death & The Circle of Life”, another intriguing piece that’s made entirely of spray-painted worms and cockroaches, during the book launch of “The Khaleeji Voice”, a six-part book series about each of the GCC nations and their respective urban art cultures where she has been featured as one the artists representing Qatar.
Commissioned by Urban Creativity – 60 Degrees, and Al Jaidah Automotive, Assil’s most notorious graffiti work yet is at the Qatar Racing Club in 2014, which was the outbreak of her graffiti career. She’s also worked with Cirque Eloize, SDI Marketing, Al Jazeera Media Network, AL Jazeera Children’s Channel, Aspire, The British Council, Qatar Olympics Committee, Purple Falcon Media, The Youth Company, and many more.
When did it all begin? And how did you first become interested in street art/graffiti?
I first became interested in graffiti when I was about 14 or 15. That’s when I started doing it on paper and painting on T-shirts, shoes, hats, etc. But I didn’t seriously start doing graffiti until I was about 25.
When I was about 21, I used to see it everywhere in New York, especially while riding the metro train. I was attracted to it from the get-go – the shapes and colors. I just admired it. I loved what I was seeing on the streets, and I wanted to be a part of it. I’ve always liked challenging myself to see what I could do. Who would’ve thought I would be a graffiti artist?
Where did the name come from?
The street/graffiti name “Sudalove” I go by represents my home country, Sudan, and my love for it. Since my work touches upon many subjects and places, I wanted to take Sudan with me everywhere. My identity does not only rely on being a female and Sudanese, but also on bringing what I know back home and taking home with me where ever I go and leave a mark.
What gave you that initial push to be a street artist?
Learning how to spray-paint, of course, and the power of graffiti – I learned that I can communicate with the public at large directly and visually, free from the superficial restrictions of the formal art world.
How do you describe the style of your pieces?
Most of my pieces lean towards typographic design. I think my BFA degree in Graphic Design plays a big role in that. Everything can have a purpose in art, and that’s what graffiti is. That’s why I like to experiment with every piece. I don’t necessarily stick to one style, or language. Sometimes I tag in Arabic and sometimes in English. But most of my work is recognizable, at least that’s what I’ve been told many times, I think it has something to do with the “muscle memory” so some letters and shapes would look repetitive and that somewhat develops a style.
Which artist is your biggest inspiration?
My biggest inspiration is “El Seed”. He’s taught me how to spray paint and gave me the confidence to just “go ahead and just start”.
Are there any particular cultures that have influenced your artwork?
Of course, where I am originally from, and where I have lived, past and present, these cultures have all influenced my graffiti. Sometimes I’d just tag street names, history, and the name of the particular country I happen to be in. But when I’m doing commissioned work, it’s basically whatever the client wants, but being bilingual makes it much easier to have a wider audience and clientele.
What are your sources of inspiration these days?
Lots of soul-searching, religion, travel, culture, earth, feelings, reading, basically my entire being and everything that surrounds me could each if not all play a vital source in my inspiration and mental thought process.
What do your pieces usually focus on?
Sometimes there is no message; just a wall in a chaotic surrounding that needs some peace or a presumed mess in a stable environment that needs some color.
What — would you say — was your greatest challenge?
I main challenges I face are with myself, trying to be better than I was the last time, trying to stay inspired and creative. It’s an ugly world out there that I want to help beautify. It could take me a couple of days before I get the urge to go out and paint again. It can be exhausting, waiting for it, you know.
Can you tell us something about your process? How long does it take from beginning to end to create a painting?
When it comes to non-commissioned work, I study the surroundings of the wall – its texture, color, basically treat the entire region as a canvas. I like to keep developing my styles of art, so I try to do a quick mind sketch of what I’m about to paint. I don’t usually sketch, if I have to, it’s because a client has requested it. I then pick up a can and I just let it all out on the wall. When the artwork is complete, I take a step back and look at the result and study how art changes the scenery and the community.
What were some of the challenges that you faced in the process?
To paint outdoor generate reactions. The fear and anticipation of what those reactions could or might be, can be distracting and my challenge is to always remain sane and focused.
Are you generally satisfied with your finished pieces?
Honestly, I never am, some friends’ say I go a bit OCD when it comes to finishing a piece, because I usually never feel like it is done.
Does music play a big role while your working or do you need a quite environment?
I have to listen to the Quran and some Duas’ to protect myself from the evil eye. I love listening to music, of course, some hip-hop and R’n’B. But I would prefer a visually quite place, by that I mean an environment where’s there’s no too much noise and negativity to look at. I love listening to some beats in a serene surrounding.
If you do listen to music while working what is the one track that would usually be on repeat?
The Quran, Black Milk – Losing Out (feat. Royce Da 5’9) & Zion I – Temperature (Feat. Talib Kweli)
What is your most memorable experience of painting on location?
Having street kids high on silicone assist me while I paint in Sudan. I found out the more walls we paint, the less high they are each time. They had something else to look forward to do. Shoutout to Gasim who stayed clean for a month working with me!
Have you had any problems with authority because of being a street artist?
Not really, I usually knock doors and ask permission. Most of my work is commissioned.
Do you have a formal art education?
I do hold a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Graphic Design from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond – Virginia, United States. I also took up a minor in Fashion Design with a special interest in Footwear Design. I also hold two diplomas in Social Media Marketing, and Advanced Digital Marketing.
If yes, do you feel that you benefitted from it?
I think my typography background has somewhat influenced my writing skills and knowledge of the arrangement of spacing and line lengths. Having the appropriate font sets the tone for my piece before I even begin.
Has your work ever been exhibited?
Yes my “graffiti on canvas” pieces have been exhibited in Malja Art Space in Bahrain, Grand Regal Hotel in Qatar, Grand Hyatt Hotel in Qatar, Gallery 5 in Richmond-Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar. I also do commissioned work and sell them online on qatarcollections.com and assildiab.com.
How do you feel about the movement of graffiti into galleries?
I feel like what makes graffiti unique is the audience it can reach, which is unlimited. However, when you take it to canvas and place it in a gallery you are somehow limiting the audience perhaps to only the art scene and whoever is interested in it.
However, bringing graffiti into galleries is always safer than going out in the street. Also, your work stays protected.
Would you rather paint alone? Or do you prefer collaborations?
Truth be told, I would rather paint alone. Only because every artist has his own vision and creative methods, so when you put a bunch of artists together it can get pretty chaotic if each is trying to lead the way for the best execution according to him/her. But I would still do collabs – you can make things you could never create on your own, learn new skills from other artists, finish bigger projects and stretch out your audience.
Have you ever collaborated with other artists?
Not really, I’ve only assisted “El Seed” in the Salwa Road Tunnel Project here in Qatar for about 4 months and had collab exhibits with other artists in Bahrain, Qatar, the US.
Do you have any specific graffiti memory that stands out?
Not really, every experience was unique and special in it’s on way. I had fun with all of them, and all of them have their own distinctive memory. However, all my tagging experiences in Sudan were great, I think because there is more of a pedestrian nature in Sudan, people stop and engage with you and your work, and also because graffiti is so new and rare over there.
What do you see as the future of street art / graffiti?
There is a huge up rise in the number of graffiti artists coming out, not sure if some are doing it for fame or to spread love. If Graffiti is put in a good cause, it can do good use for social development, founding art schools in low-income neighborhoods and partnering with the police to paint murals in neglected and shabby areas. Graffiti can serve as community service, again if the mind state of the artist is at peace with the world.
Are there any issues regarding graffiti that particularly engage you? Any messages you wish to convey to your viewers?
One of the issues with so many graffiti artists coming out is not being able to stay creative and end up plagiarizing instead of developing their own style, and therefore can’t inspire or put graffiti to good use. I know a few of those, so I’ll avoid them as writers. I know graffiti has some main elements to it, but you can stay unique by switching things up.