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Studio Visit – Laurence Vallières

Whether in Berlin or Hawaii, the deserts of Burning man or the streets of Miami, Laurence Vallières impressive sculptures grab your attention. Vallières animals are typically engaged in typical, human, everyday-scenarios that will captivate your fascination.

In between two flights, we managed to catch  Laurence Vallières at a quick stop at her Montreal studio, during which we had the opportunity to discover the menagerie and their artistic creator .  

Located at the back of a massive manufacturing warehouse lies some of her artworks and several pieces of cardboard waiting to be turned into art, mixed with some small figurines and clay sculptures.

Tell us, how has your interest for art developed and when did you decide to make it your career?

When I was younger, I always liked art classes. When it was time to choose a path in college, I applied for human sciences to reassure my parents, but it only lasted one semester. Once I visited the art studios inside the school, I was hooked. They were simple big and white spaces, but I knew right away that’s what I wanted to do. I then followed with a Bachelor’s degree in Art and I went for it.

Which artists inspired you early on?

I’ve always been really impressed with sculptors, like Antony Gormley, Louise Bourgeois et Andy Goldsworthy, to name a few. The latter creates more installations than sculptures, but what he does is fabulous. It’s really poetic, I think.

Your sculptures often take an animal form. What attracts you to this subject in particular?

Satirical literature discussing anthropomorphism inspires a lot of my artworks, more specifically Maus by Art Spiegelman and Animal Farm by George Orwell. I think it is really interesting to use animals to discuss political situations and that’s kind of what I’m trying to translate with my art. I always liked the idea of representing typical human situations, may they be political, environmental or social, through animals.


You’re known for your artworks made out of cardboard. Why have you chosen this material?

It’s funny because I originally studied ceramics, clay was the material that first attracted me to the art world. Although, when I did my first exhibit, the space was really big and I was scared I wouldn’t be able to fill it. So, I wanted to create a massive art piece to place in the middle of the room and clay can’t really support the dimensions I wanted to occupy the space. Cardboard would be my best alternative. It’s a widely available and cheap medium that you can transform into massive pieces. Because my work was so different and the format pretty impressive, it quickly caught people’s attention. It grew in popularity at an incredible speed, so I continued on this path.

Can you explain your artistic approach and the different steps you go through when creating your cardboard sculptures?

Before, I’d first sculpt my artwork with clay and then recreate it in cardboard in a larger format. Or, I would get inspiration from small figurines I’d find at a store. However, these days, I don’t really need smaller models to refer to.

Also, my artworks were completely made out of cardboard before. Now, I use a lot of wood as a  material of support inside the sculpture. It allows for a more stable and long-lasting sculpture and also allows for my artworks to be aerial.

As for my conceptual process, I often decide the subject of my artworks on the spot, depending on the place and the theme of the event I participate in. For example, for Pow Wow Hawaii, I sculpted a gecko, as there are a lot of these there. Likewise, at Art Basel Miami, I sculpted mooses, as the theme of Juxtapoz Clubhouse’s exhibition was kinda Canadian, with Whatisadam’s patriotic artworks, amongst others.


Your art allows you to travel a lot, which is your go-to place to create?

I like Germany a lot. I often go back there. It’s one of the only countries outside of Canada where I could see myself live.

The majority of your artworks are exhibited in galleries, but a lot of them also appear on the streets during festivals, like MURAL, or special art shows. What attracts you to public art? Can we expect to see more of your artworks outside in the future?

I’ve always had a fascination with urban art. Like many, Banksy was a big inspiration. I liked the political, yet satirical messages behind his art, it’s funny and intelligent at the same time.

I’ve never done any graffiti or murals, but I once did small cement sculptures that I brought into the streets incognito. It was my form of public art. It was also surprising to find a small green  gargoyle instead of a big tag.

I would love to create more public art, but cardboard isn’t really made for that. It really is ephemeral, but that’s what it’s like to use cardboard as your main medium. Now, I’d love to work with the city to create more permanent pieces à la Jeff Koons.

What projects are you currently working on?

I’ve got a lot going on in the next few months. I’m going to China in a couple of days to participate in an exhibition by Yoho Magazine. It’s still a little unclear for me, I’ve never been to this country, so I can’t wait to see how it’s going to turn out! Then, I’m going to Crush Festival in Denver, I also have a sculpture to make in Morocco, and then there’s Pow Wow Lancaster in October. I also hope I’ll have the opportunity to participate in MURAL Festival again this year.

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#TravelTuesday: Lisbon

Over the years, street art has become a way for cities to revive neighborhoods; a means for artists to express themselves in a more public space; a platform for activists to broadcast their messages; a medium for brands to let their colours show. From Miami to Lisbon, to Melbourne, and everything in between, the world has become a large canvas to discover.

MURAL Festival Blog introduces #TravelTuesday, a street art destination content series, where each piece will explore an artsy city’s unique street art culture.

In the city of seven hills, walking might not be your go-to mode of transport. If renting a car, you are definitely missing out. Those steep streets hold numerous hidden pieces of art.

Well known as a destination spot for a street art scavenger hunt, Lisbon’s street art scene has been flourishing for decades. In the 70’s, Portuguese artists took the city as their canvas to express themselves, mostly motivated by political debates surrounding the era. While the murals inspired by the 1974 revolution disappeared over the years, Lisbon’s street art is still alive and well thanks to the city council. They saw early on the benefits of adding a colours to walls and façades, supporting local street artists with initiatives like the creation of the Galeria de Urbano Arte (GAU) and the CRONO Project.

Designed to regenerate the Bairro Alto, the GAU gave artists a legal place to create while respecting the neighborhood’s patrimonial and landscape values. Head to Bairro Alto, Calçada da Gloria and along the river to the South to discover the GAU’s series of legal murals created by local and international street artists.

Piece by Low Bros.

In addition to the regeneration of Bairro Alto project, the art gallery also launched the Muro Festival two years ago which brought many artists from Portugal and around the world to beautify the streets of Bairro Paddre Creuz and Marvila with over 50 new murals.

Piece by Felipe Pantone.

As for the CRONO Project, the popular event had a similar goal : commissioning artists to transform neglected buildings in the business district. Admire the artworks made by Blu, Vhils and many more well-known artists as part of the project on Avenida Fontes Pereira de Melo, one of the most photographed street for its public art.

Piece by Blu.

Presently, the liveliest place for street art today in Lisbon must be Alcântara, an old industrial place in the West part of the city, transformed into a creative space called LX Factory. Filled with artworks from various leading Portuguese artists, such as Vhils, AkaCorleone, Mar and more, this area welcomes a great number of entrepreneurs, artists, musicians, freelancers, fashion designers and other creative minds.

Piece by Aka Corleone & Kruella d’Enfer.

As for the oldest street art pieces of the city, head out to the Amoreiras Graffiti Wall of Fame where some of the artworks date as far back as 1996.

Piece by Nomen.

Lisbon’s also home to one of the most reputed urban art gallery: the Underdog Gallery. Hosting shows for established and upcoming talents from around the world, the gallery is a must-see when exploring the city’s street art culture. Not to mention, they also offer guided tours to discover some of the most impressive interventions made as part of their public art program.

Piece by Finok.

In addition to being filled with amazing artworks, Lisbon is also home to many internationally known street artists such as Bordalo II, Vhils and Add Fuel, to name a few.

Notorious for turning waste into art as a critique to the consumerist world we live in, Bordalo II was born in the city and many of his “trash animals” can now be spotted in these streets.

Piece by Bordalo II.

As for Vhils, the established artist achieved his acclaim through Lisbon. With artworks reflecting the identity, Vhils became known for his one-of-a-kind carving technique.

Piece by Pixel Pancho & Vhils. | Photo Credit: © BrooklynStreetArt.com

Playing with the language of traditional tile design and the Portuguese tin-glazed ceramic azulejo, famous street artist, Add Fuel, is also Lisbon-born and his artworks are not to be missed when visiting the city and its surroundings.

Piece by Add Fuel.

To make sure you’re not missing anything, enroll in one of the many street art walking tours offered in the city or download the app “Lisbon Street Art”.

Mural Festival 2018

Mural Festival 2018 Embodies Michael Reeder’s Imagery

Every year, MURAL’s team approaches an artist from the muralist line-up to create artistic elements for the Festival’s visual identity in their own personalized style. For MURAL’s sixth edition, we are proud to be working with artist Michael Reeder.

“I’m super excited to have my work and style be used for this year’s visual branding! Since it’ll be designed in numerous sizes and shapes as well as adhering to several advertising and signage requirements, it’ll be interesting to see how the crew for the Festival uses the elements from my work.”

A graduate from New York’s School of Visual Arts, Reeder is now based in Los Angeles and working full-time as a studio artist and muralist. His journey in the art world began at a young age; from car doodles on the coffee table, to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles drawing contests, or private oil painting classes in first grade, art has always been a part of his life.

Currently known for his figurative and abstract work using contrasting colours, motifs, shapes and layers, Reeder creates ambiguous portraits exploring the concepts of identity𑁋how we see ourselves versus what we project. Our backgrounds, experiences, upbringings, ethnicities are all very different and blend together in unique ways to create each of our identities. For Reeder, the concept of identity includes many layers.

Combining graphic and realism elements, his artworks end up having a collage feel, echoing the multiple facets that compose the identity.


While one art piece may explore identity through one’s ethnicity or gender, another may explore the inner self versus the outer self. Different symbolic elements make the identities of Reeder’s portraits unique. For example, he often deprives his characters of their eyes. “I like the idea of there being an inner-self. The person in our head, our ego, or our conscience encased in an outer vessel of skin, so I started creating these portraits without eyes – essentially depicting just the outer shell of a man.” He explains.


In the same vein, smoke billowing out of the eyes of his characters will signify that the inner self is released.

   

He also likes to incorporate skulls in his artworks. Typically viewed as being human, without necessarily having an ethnicity or a gender, skulls allow him to convey that in the end, we are all the same.

   
However, as Reeder explains, his artworks don’t always have a profound meaning: “There are many times when I don’t know exactly what a piece means, or what it specifically represents, but if I like it, I do my best to leave it alone. Maybe later on, down the line I’ll discover what it means.”

In addition to his contributions to the 2018 MURAL Festival visual identity, the American artist will also leave his mark on Montreal’s streets with a large-scale mural. Accustomed to the traditional canvas, painting a mural has, for Reeder, a greater impact. Compared to an exhibition, a mural’s scale and its public platform has allowed him to reach a larger audience for a longer period of time. “Murals become a part of an individual’s daily commute, or strolls with friends downtown, etc.”, he explains. Not to mention that as he spends a lot of time inside a studio, painting a wall outside gives him an opportunity to take in a little sun, move a bit and meet people!


While anticipating his enigmatic and colourful style to our Montreal streets, you’ll be able to enjoy his artistic touch to our visual identity via our digital platforms, booklets, posters and more.

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Studio Visit – Earth Crusher

A few weeks ago, our team met with Earth Crusher to explore his creative space, uncover his inspirations, and learn more about the origins of the creator of the retro-tyrannical robot set on destroying the modern world.

The artist behind this evil character scrupulously works on illustrating the menaces of our capitalist society: over-exploitation of our natural resources, deforestation, modern slavery, misogyny, egocentrism of political and economic leaders, etc. Inspired by the “1%” who rule the world, his humanoids with a television-monitor head, remind us of Big Brother and the constant monitoring depicted in the novel 1984 by George Orwell.

Marc-Andre, Dre, or Earth Crusher (depending on the occasion) is a multifaceted artist utilizing multiple mediums to express his dystopian vision of the World. Buildings, billboards, canvases, toys, masks and costumes, Earth Crusher comes to life in many different forms that allow him to continue his propaganda for profit-seeking without limits or values.

When did you first start painting?

I was always creating artworks as a kid and my parents were pretty supportive. During high school, I got hooked on the graffiti scene, hanging out with friends and painting walls, rooftops or highways. After a while, I was lucky enough to meet and paint with some amazing artists that I’ve admired when I was younger, like Zek or Scan. Now, working at A’shop has allowed me to work with more and more amazing artists, like Fluke & Dodo Ose. Fun fact: I was also playing the drums in a band, Side C, and I used to play gigs where Monk-e often hung around.

You’re known for your Earth Crusher character, representing unscrupulous political and financial leaders of today’s world, how did you come up with this name and these recurring characteristics, like its tv-shaped head and its impeccable suit?

During high school, when I was getting into graffiti, I was making fun of the system by creating this prophet resembling a machine. I took the name from a song called “Earthcrusher” about nuclear bombs, by Mr Lif. I thought it described my character well, him representing people who make these bombs and destroy our World. This character has always been a destructive machine. Overtime, it also evolved as I was learning more about the system.

   

Your artworks have a retro vibe with elements from ads in the 50’s, can you tell us more about the universe surrounding your character?

That’s a really inspiring time for me, right after the war and the invention of the nuclear bomb. At that time, before photography took over, there was an omnipresent imagery of what the perfect life should look like. This time also came with a particular political atmosphere. Then, I started to learn more about this world I was fighting and now I’m trying to understand it more to improve it in my work.

Your work explores social and economic problems like capitalism, modern slavery, deforestation, and mass production. Do you consider yourself an activist?

Activist sounds like a strong word. I’m not protesting in the streets, but I guess putting up artwork is a form of protest in a way. So, my role of activist is still pretty laid back, but painting walls and making public works gives me the opportunity to reach people and in a sense manipulate how they feel about specific subjects. There are millions of people that are going to see my artwork and, like they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. So, when I have a chance to put something up, I really take the time to think about what I want to say and not waste the opportunity. Sometimes, it can be hard doing big public projects: you have to go through a lot of people and try to satisfy them all. But, there are stills ways you can jump through the hoops of what the city or the owner of the building wants and hide your messages in an aesthetic way that won’t bother anyone.

You did a mural for MURAL’s 2015 edition, can you tell us about the social issues you were exploring on this piece?

I named this one “Earth Crusher destroyer of worlds”. It’s inspired from J. Robert Oppenheimer, the scientist who invented the first nuclear bomb. In a press conference, he quoted a Hindu sacred text: “Now, I am become Death, the Destroyer of worlds”. This whole thing brought me to do a dystopian version of the god Vishnu with her 4 arms, but instead holding a big cigar, a cell phone and a credit card, while cutting a tree with scissors.

The last hand has a particularly funny anecdote that comes with it : as I used an actual tree that was already there and incorporated it in the painting, the shop behind the building was selling wood, so it added an ironic touch to say “Here: Wood for Sale!”

From murals to figurines, regular canvases and even costumes, your character seems to take various shapes, can you explain your creative process? Is there a medium you prefer using to bring your character to life?

I like the process of making miniature billboards, where I have to weld and cut metal, merging multiple disciplines for one artwork.

As for the figurines, I usually buy one already made and take off the head, which I replace a head I’ve sculpted myself. I’m always trying new things and learning at the same time.

   

I also really enjoy the whole creative process that comes with producing illustrations. I dig around and try to find the worst, most powerful people in the world, the ones who are real-life Earth Crushers. There is a lot of things that could be changed in a fraction of seconds by a small group of people who have the control, but they don’t… Understanding the human nature and the decision-making processes that end up affecting millions of people, I really find it fascinating.

You often work in collaboration with Five8 or the artists of A’shop. How does the creative process change in these situations?

It’s always a good experience to work on a collaborative project. Even when you’re doing a mural on your own, it’s always nice to have a buddy with you! At A’shop, we brainstorm a lot together. Sometimes, one guy designs the artwork and then we get together and make it happen!

With Five8, we’re like brothers, we’ve been painting together for almost ten years now. It’s been a while! We even paint with the same people, we did a project with OMEN in Toronto recently and he also worked on projects with us at A’shop. We also regularly do some exploring painting in abandoned building.

    
We can find your work in the streets under 2 different aliases: Dre & Earth Crusher. Why did you decide to separate your graffiti from your other work?

Dre is the name I was writing during the days I was really active in the graffiti scene. For me, it was more of a sport: finding spots and writing my name, nice and big! But it’s kind of a tough and risky sport, it’s fun on the surface but there’s not much incentive.

Earth Crusher is a project I started on my own, that came with a character and a universe of its own. So, it was important for me to separate the two.

When I do collaborative murals or a project for someone with A’shop, I just put on my painter hat and sign Dre. Then, I put on my Earth Crusher costume and go exploring new ways to destroy the world!

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An Ode to Album Cover Art

Originally just a protective cover for the fragile CD or viny, the album cover soon became an opportunity for artistic expression to allow the music a visual representation. By offering a little teaser of what’s to come and conveying the essence of the album in a visual manner, album cover art has the power to transform our listening experience into an immersive one.

The 60’s saw album cover art really take off with musicians commissioning visual artists. Music audiences could take home an Andy Warhol through The Velvet Underground or a Jean-Michel Basquiat via The Offs. The record sleeve became equally iconic as the music they contained.

The Velvet Underground, The Velvet Underground & Nico by Andy Warhol

The Offs, First Record by Jean-Michel Basquiat

Early on, the association between street artists and musicians was organic. In the 80’s, graffiti was synonymous with hip-hop, both being subcultures born on the streets and inspiring each other. Later, rock and punk music would inspired a new generation of street artists.

Now, album art by street artists prevails and also celebrated through various genres: from pop to rap to metal to jazz to disco and EDM. We’ve seen some iconic collaborations: Banksy and Blur, Keith Haring and David Bowie, or Shepard Fairey and The Smashing Pumpkins’.

Blur, Think Tank by Banksy

David Bowie, Without You by Keith Haring

The Smashing Pumpkins, Zeitgeist by Shepard Fairey

In today’s Spotify, Apple Music and other fast-streaming tools, album cover art unfortunately often go unnoticed and many are losing an important part of the creative process: the visuals.

Although, this hasn’t prevented the creations of some amazing and, sometimes, surprising collaborations.

Blink-182, California by D*Face

Christina Aguilera, BI-ON-IC by D*Face

Kaytranada, 99,9% by Ricardo Cavolo

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, This Unruly Mess I’ve Made by Ricardo Cavolo

Chris Brown, F.A.M.E by Ron English

The Voidz, Virtue by Felipe Pantone

The visuals directing our auditory imagination have even brought curators to produce exhibitions dedicated to the subject and art aficionados to collect these album covers.

We’re not telling you to judge an album by its cover, but… oh, wait, maybe we are. Some of these deserve the title of ‘masterpiece’, don’t you think?