Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Travel Treats: Montréal, Canada pt. 1

J'adore Montréal! The idea to visit this lovely city came about last year, after a friend watched an episode of Anthony Bordaine's, "The Layover." Suffice to say, he was instantly smitten and lobbied for a group vacation. Little did he realize that traveling across the Northern border requires a passport (oh Brandon) hence plans were put on hold for 2014. And so this past May, the four of us booked our tickets and went bon voyage.

Initially, I was going to do a single post about our trip but then I realized how many pictures of graffiti we snapped. My goodness! We communicate our creative sides through various medians but share an appreciation for urban art forms. In his younger days, my husband was a writer (aka "did graffiti") in Northern Virginia and honed his talents as a dynamic graphic designer.

This handful of select images illustrate the vast difference between graffiti used as a form of expression versus the stuff scrawled in bathroom stalls or used as sheer vandalism. It takes a special mind to do it right. You're essentially creating a unique alphabet within the parameters of a style and technique. There are pieces where I literally have to ask the husband to translate because my pea brain can't figure it out.

Clearly, these works took serious time and effort. When created with meaning, this art is valued and can bring out the character of a community.


There were two special treats waiting for Mike and I on the walls of Montréal. I did not realize that there is an active Portuguese community until we stumbled into their "Little Portugal" district. I was buggin out seeing the flag and various restaurants. What truly took my breath away, however, was the above image on the left. For those that don't know, the rooster is a big deal in Portuguese folklore and you can find the ceramic version in any self-respecting Portuguese family's home.  The imagery in the background represents the country's age of discoveries and the Order of Christ cross. It is a cultural piece with a touch of saudade and accurately represents the spirit of the neighborhood.

The second treat is the image pictured on the right done by one of the husband's favorite graffiti artists, El Mac. We came across this while strolling on Roy E near Coloniale corner. The pensive persona of the subject in contrast to the cool colors creates a window into another atmosphere. The artists control of the can and use of wave like style is immaculate. This is yet another example of El Mac's mastery of his median.


Lastly, the example above is done in my favorite style which is called "Wild Style." I love its intricate lettering that combines sharp angles yet round characters. The detail of the shadowing, slight 3-d effect, and stylistic accents are standard elements. I've always had a love for arrows in graffiti. Don't know why! Plus, the piece was also done in the Portuguese district and incorporates the traditional blue and white ceramic tiles, known as  Azulejo, that are a national trademark. How this artist created the vintage look and feel of tile on a brick wall with paint boggles my mind.

I find it fascinating when a city is willing to take a gamble and permits artists to share their dreams so publicly. The results can be surprising, refreshing, confusing, and inspiring.

Thank you for indulging me in this off-beat musing about graffiti.