Travel Blog

17 Aug

Meet a Montrealer: Street artists MissMe, Zek One and Dodo_ose

miss-me-eva-blueStreet art in Montréal not only brightens the urban core and surrounding neighbourhoods but reflects the spirit and culture of the city, whether in a colourful two-storey mural downtown for Mural Festival, live group painting at Under Pressure or a wheatpaste print in a side-street alley. Tourisme Montréal recently talked to three of the city’s most intriguing street artists: the mysterious “artful vandal” MissMe – known best for her Portrait of a Vandal print series of a naked woman wearing a Mickey Mouse-eared balaclava – and A’shop crew artists Zek One and Dodo_ose, the creative minds and deft hands behind several prominent murals in Montréal and other major cities.

How has Montréal influenced your style?

MissMe: Montréal has allowed me to explore and to evolve. I work alone, but I end up meeting and knowing other artists because ours is still a small community even though it’s recently grown so much. Montréal is so special because of the vibe of this city, the people, there’s something very human and organic about it – the art in the street reflects that. It may seem messy for some, but it gives the city more personality.

Zek One: Back in ‘93, I started as a kid doing graffiti on the streets and back alleys, but I was impressed by bigger, colourful pieces and changed to doing that. As the years passed, we built our art community slowly, more artists came in and I was painting with more people, but in recent years it’s really blown up with so many people travelling to Montréal now to paint, so I see even more art that inspires me.

Dodo_ose: I came here from France six years ago to paint. I remember my first graffiti book was a special Montréal edition, given to me by my mom 16 years ago. I’d look at that book and want to go to Montréal. Some of the art from the book is still here in the streets – for me it was a childhood dream come true to see it in real life. The first day I was here, I painted a piece on Ste-Catherine Street and to this day I’ve kept on going and kept my work growing with the style of Montréal.

missmeart-eva-blueHow would you define street art, in terms of all other art?

MissMe: A lot of stuff that I do or the murals that you see is more accessible art – people understand it and think it’s more aesthetically pleasing, and so they’ll accept it more. It’s different when you put stuff up without authorization. Someone’s taking the time, energy, money on something that might disappear. It’s a beautiful act, and a lot of people see it that way, even if they don’t understand or agree with what I do. I think that’s why illegal street art is now popular, because people love the idea that you don’t have to play by the rules, which are oppressive in a million different ways in our society. It’s like a breath of fresh air. I accept it when people are upset or aren’t happy about it, because it’s a discussion – once you put something in the streets you’re starting a discussion.

Zek One: For me, it’s kind of a simple question: it’s just somebody expressing themselves in the street instead of inside their house or studio. It’s for everybody to see right now, without an invitation, you just go outside and see what there is to see.

Dodo_ose: Street art is the evolution of graffiti, and graffiti was made for a small group of people, not for everybody, which is why most people don’t understand or enjoy that kind of graffiti. Street art takes that and changes the approach to make more people look at it so  they can really understand street art. Muralism is the next step from that – it opens street art up to even more people.

ashopHow close to your personal experience is your art?

MissMe: It’s my own voice, it comes from my own experience. My art is a way for me to breath, express myself, recreate a certain balance outside that I feel is missing and doesn’t reflect how I feel inside. Portrait of a Vandal is a portrait of me naked – she’s in a position of owning her own sexuality, not posing, not in a position of seduction. A naked body is just a naked body, whereas sexuality is an intention, not a state of being. We’re used to seeing women’s bodies naked a lot because that’s been commercialized, used for a million different reasons but rarely portrayed in a way that’s just for us women to own.

Zek One: My art is similar to my temperament, with a lot of flow, lots of colours, lots of contrasts; sometimes I can be explosive. I like doing abstract work that doesn’t mean only one thing – people can feel what they feel, can see a lot of different things in it.

Dodo_ose: When you look at my work, it’s me. I never stop a piece until I’m happy. More and more I’m going outside of typical classic graffiti style, moving into old master painters or Norman Rockwell – I’m feeling more like a painter, and big murals are more like painting. I like to represent everyday life in my art. Once somebody asked me “What’s art?” I said, it’s  only simple things; sometimes those little things are so perfect.

What’s the coolest thing you’ve done so far this year?

MissMe: The Vandals video the Phi Centre produced for me that I created as a visual manifesto of the Portrait of a Vandal. It was amazing and took me out of my comfort zone, but I dove into it and was as bold as I could be. We had 30 women show up and we fully trusted and loved each other; everybody was just about accepting each other and loving themselves. Everybody looked completely different, we had people from all cultures, ethnicities, shapes, ages, and everybody felt like a total badass.

Zek One: We’re working on a project in L.A. called #DegreesOfPerfect, something we’ve never done before – a mural that changes colour with temperature. At A’Shop we’re making a lot of new art, especially for murals sponsored by the city for Project de Mural.

Dodo_ose: I’m on the same project as Zek – it was a four-month concept, painting with thermo-chronic paints that change colour when you cool them or warm them up. You stand in front of it and the image morphs. It’s the first time in the world something like this has been made. I’m also planning my own gallery art show of watercolours.

Je me souviens. 1492. The Statue of LIEberty. This may seem like a visual contradiction. But i argue it doesn’t have to be. I am not trying to criticise the “idea” of freedom and the importance and validity of what the Statue of Liberty represents, all i am trying to say, it that by ignoring, like it is mostly done, in schools, in medias, the massacres and cultural genocide all these beautiful ideas are built on historically, it weakens the strength and validity of this symbol. Because even in 2016, both in the USA and Canada, our First Nations are still being oppressed by the system and by silence. How is it possible that 2/3 of all First Nation communities in Canada have been under at least one drinking water advisory in the last decade? Some communities for over 20years?? Aren’t we THE Nation of water?? Why is it that nearly one quarter of Canada’s First Nations adults reported contemplating suicide at some point in their life? And we all know the recent states of emergencies that have been occurring due to an “epidemic” of suicides among young teenagers in a few of our provinces… Why are native-american women disappearing in huge numbers and nobody in the governments seems to care enough to figure out what is going on? The Canadian and American History books need to get updated. This Continent’s History DIDN’T start with fucking Columbus. We need to be tough the History of all First Nations as History. As we live here. And they were here first. They have so much to TEACH us. And we should not feel ok until these systemic racists problems get solved. We need to listen more, as a Nation. Je me souviens. 1492. The Statue of LIEberty. UnderPressure Graffiti Festival 2016. UP acknowledges that this event takes place on unceded Mohawk Territory. Just my 2cents. #1492 #ladyLIEberty #firstnations #freedom #ohcanada #UnderPressure2016 #JeMeSouviens

Une photo publiée par From Planet Earth. I think. (@miss_me_art) le 16 Août 2016 à 13h24 PDT

What’s your favourite Montréal memory?

MissMe: This is hard because I have a million. It’s not a moment, but I would say what I love the best about this city is the people – you can talk to and meet people easily everywhere. People maintain a simplicity and a kindness that allows you to really have a very special life here.

Zek One: The Under Pressure festival has existed for over 20 years now, and 12 years ago I organized a graffiti jam called Meeting of Style. For the first time I was able to paint with some of my favourite international artists – that jam will always be a good memory for me. It was about discovering, meeting new people, learning new techniques, building links between cities.

Dodo_ose: My first week here. I’m really glad I got the chance to meet my crew the first week I was here – I just met them in the street painting – I’m still working with them every day.

Massive wall by @a_shop crew and @og_slick @primek2s @bigsleeps ::: @thecontaineryard ::: #LosAngeles #ashop #graffiti #dtla #drone #dji #sunset #TheContainerYard

Une photo publiée par Landon Taylor (@landon_taylor) le 3 Juil. 2016 à 23h21 PDT

What’s the one thing anyone visiting Montréal should do?

MissMe: They should go eat! We’ve got great restaurants here. And they should go see all the mural work and all the legal stuff, go to the alleys and see all the illegal stuff. Go around and meet as many people as you can.

Zek One: Go try to find all the walls we have here in Montréal; it’s crazy, it’s exponential.

Dodo_ose: The beauty in Montréal is in people, the vibe, the way you can just be yourself, so just walk, meet people, enjoy the street vibe. And for painters, paint a lot – Montréal is a great playground for that.

Up next: Music, food and dancing in the streets at OUMF Festival










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