“Surfaces”: Montreal street art in the spotlight

August 24, 2018

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Local street art is the main attraction in the Quartier des Spectacles! Until October 28 on the Promenade des Artistes, 16 Montreal-based artists and collectives are exhibiting new pieces commissioned for “Surfaces,” a unique new exhibition. The artists all had full creative freedom to make their new work, and collectively they reflect the incredible range of artistic practices seen in street art. The public will get to know a group of bold artists who are helping put the city on the international cultural map.

The exhibition is presented in collaboration with several key partners – Ashop, Under Pressure, Artgang, MU, MASSIVart and LNDMRK – and features the work of 123Klan, Cedar-Eve, the Ashop Collective (Ankh One & Monk.e), Garbage Beauty (the duo of Vincent Box and Romain Boz), Her, Labrona, Miss Me, Omen, Roadsworth, Shalak Attack, Stare, Zek and Zilon, as well as a video projection by Zoltan Veevaate, Axe Lalime and MTLight Collective.

To find out more about these artists and their art, we asked them about their path and inspirations, and their opinion of Montreal’s place in global street-art culture.

How did you get started in street art, and where are you headed with your art?

Her: In 1998, my then-boyfriend invited me to the Under Pressure festival, and I fell in love with graffiti. I started to get seriously involved in the art form after I saw the documentary Style Wars by Tony Silver and discovered Lady Pink. When I paint, I try to be an inspiration to the next generation.

Zek: I started when I was 13. At the time, I didn’t have any particular expectations but I was fortunate to be asked very early on to work on various decorative projects. Even though I’ve almost never been without a paying gig since then, I still make graffiti art in the street, and always will.

123KLAN: Our school was the hip-hop movement in the late 90s. The ideas of respect, peace and unity were the guiding principles.

Roadsworth: In the early 2000s, I started painting “bike paths” all around Montreal, for fun. It was a kind of activism that evolved into something more artistic, but I’d say my work still has social and political dimensions.

What are your current inspirations?

Miss Me: What inspires me? The world where we live, and its social issues. And also, of course, everyday beauty.

Ashop: We’ve been able to connect with local and international artists, and that enriches our own work. The relationship with the public is also inspiring, as is respecting the culture and environment of the places where we paint.

Zïlon: I’m inspired by the consequences of modern life, different human states, imperfection – and chaos!

Omen: The growing gap in understanding that separates reality from social media.

Vincent Box (Garbage Beauty): I try to get inspiration from everything but art. In other words, the reality of the things around me, like architecture, the way light shines on a face I see in the street, the shape of a random object on the sidewalk…

Labrona: Right now, my studio is a huge inspiration, but I also have to mention my many artist friends who constantly blow me away with their talent!

Shalak Attack: Humanity’s relationship with nature is at the heart of my work. When I paint in a public place, I try to remember that we are part of the planet’s biodiversity. I also like to represent strong, vibrant women who don’t conform to the “ideal” pushed by advertising, but who are metaphors for Mother Earth herself.

What is Montreal’s place in street-art culture?

Romain Boz (Garbage Beauty): Montreal’s street-art scene has countless different currents, and I don’t think everyone sees the scene in the same way… That said, over the last few years Montreal has supported and liberated its street-art movement, and that is definitely not the case in every city. 

Ashop: Montreal is an incubator for talent, and it has unique energy in terms of street art. It’s a source of inspiration and an incredible place to make art.

Cedar Eve: It’s inspiring to live in a city with so many visual artists who paint murals and express themselves. That said, I’d like to see more visible minority, female and queer artists get opportunities to show their art in the city and abroad.

Zek: When I was starting out, nobody thought Montreal could even have graffiti. We were unknown, because there weren’t many of us making graffiti art. But I’m proud of the huge strides made by the local scene over the last 25 years, and I’m convinced that it’s only the beginning. Montreal has become a hub for street art on this continent, thanks to everyone’s hard work.

Axe, Zoltan and MTLIGHT: Montreal street art has a rich and diverse future thanks to the work of certain professionals who are rising to international prominence. And the replacement of bare walls with walls covered by murals is definitely going to encourage more people to get into street art.

123KLAN: Montreal is a creative city, and one of the most open to street art in North America. Above all, what makes Montreal is Montrealers and their talent.