Ask pretty much anyone about graffiti in Taiwan and they’ll tell you that DABS YIA is the person to talk to, a founder of the expat graffiti scene who still remains active. DABS, a wiry guy who manages to come across as both laid-back and hyperactive at the same time, originally came to Taipei from Canada to teach English around 2001. At the time, he says, there were a few artists painting walls in parks and under bridges, but there were “no tags or throw-ups on the streets. I was testing the waters to see how far I could go. I was still doing tracksides and mural spots, low-key abandoned spots. Around 2002, 2003 onwards I was doing a lot of street stuff.”
DABS was the tip of the spear when it came to graffiti in Taipei. Starting in 2004, a growing number of writers writers associated with the Bay Area graff scene came to visit or live in Taipei, among them CHEK, UDON, OPTIMIST, and NOE, the latter who was originally from Taiwan, but grew up in California and returned for good in 2008. Their graffiti was rooted in classic Bay Area influences, with solid handstyles, stylish throw-ups, and the occasional giant block letters painted with rollers and house paint.