For the past 20 years, London artist Zeus has been drawing inspiration from urban culture to create dynamic, experimental compositions that have re-defined graffiti art. Captivated by the hip-hop scene of the 80s, he began expressing his creative talents on the street when he was just 14, using walls, trains, and open spaces as his galleries.
Since then Zeus has continually pushed the boundaries of graffiti artistry, taking the form out of its traditional setting and into new, exciting and more legitimate places.
His latest works represents an innovative fusion of graffiti techniques and typography, fine art and sculpture and reflect both his background on the streets and his formal training at Chelsea College of Art.
Born Dean Zeus Colman, his middle name naturally became his tag. It could be seen across London throughout the 80s and, still in his teens, Zeus earned a reputation as one of they country’s most prolific writers. His work caught the attention of many of the influential faces of hip-hop at the time, figures like Tim Westwood who commissioned him to create designs for one of the first hip-hop clubs, Spatz, in 1984. Through Westwood, Zeus also had the opportunity to work with the likes of Paul Oakenfold, making backdrops and posters for artists signed to his Def Jam label, including Dougie Fresh and Whizz Kid. Meanwhile, Doze of the Rock Steady Crew helped him perfect his spray paint techniques.
When house music took off in 1986/87 Zeus also received commissions from the warehouse clubs that sprung up around the capital, such as West World at the Brixton Academy. All these contacts served as an effective catalyst for his career, encouraging him to think beyond the limitations of spray paint and walls.
Zeus has always striven to rid street art of its tarnished image – acquired through an historic association with crime and vandalism. Partly to this end, he has worked with numerous community centres throughout London, teaching young offenders graffiti techniques. In so doing, he has helped to establish the art form as an effective, positive outlet for the energies and creativity of teenagers. He was even invited to teach Prince Charles how to spray paint as part of a Prince’s Trust initiative. It was also due to common perceptions of his chosen art form that Zeusreturned to college. He was aware of the conflict that pervaded the UKart scene – and which to an extent still does – between being recognisedas a street artist and gaining recognition as an artist per se. He secured a place at Chelsea College of Art to study for a degree in Fine Art, majoring in sculpture, making it harder for sceptics to question his talent and abilities.
It was at this point that Zeus took his art into three-dimensional form, creating graffiti sculptures out of light wooden sheets. Over the next decade interest in this artist intensified. He was described as “a 3D graffiti pioneer” by ‘The Face’ magazine and his work appeared at a variety of venues throughout the UK, including London’s Victoria & Albert museum as part of its ‘StreetStyle’ exhibition.
His latest solo show took place in March 2003 at Westbourne Studios in Notting Hill. ‘Graffiti Landscapes’ was an eclectic mix of paintings and sculptures combining fine art and street art and attracted significant attention from London’s artistic community and the international media. In the same year, Zeus was commissioned by Jade Jagger to re-design the windows and display cabinets for Garrards (the Crown jewellers) to promote her Graffiti range. His latest artwork was also displayed at Garrards for a private party hosted by Jagger for London Fashion Week.
Since then Zeus has received numerous offers to exhibit his work. In April 2003 he joined a group of self-taught artists from around the world to showcase some of his creations at London’s Inspired Art Fair. Dan Macmillan also invited him to participate in his Zoltar Show last December.
Zeus has maintained momentum as an artist through his desire to recreate the essence of street art in original guises. At the present time he is channelling his talents into the creation of useable sculptures, from his renowned ‘Fishtank’ to 3D graffiti furniture. He aims to make the art form visually more understandable and in so doing communicate its beauty and validity beyond the confines of the street. Already he has made great headway towards this goal, opening the form up to a broader audience and earning himself wide recognition in the process.