Exploring the night with Montreal street artists
Concordia University/CBC student journalism series examines Montreal's stories after sundown
Montreal-bred graffiti artist Bosny is standing on a rooftop with the rest of his crew.
It's pitch black out and the fumes of the spray paint are getting to their heads.
Known as XL, the collective of artists is painting a six-metre wide by two-metre high piece, standing on their tiptoes or on each other's shoulders to reach the highest point.
"We were interested in doing large scale works illegally," Bosny says after his crew disperses.
"We would spend a lot of time during the day looking at rooftops and accessibility."
The next day, commuters walk past XL's freshly painted piece, either unaware of the change in the streetscape or delighted by the sight of the addition to the urban gallery on their way to work.
Bosny is the artist name this Concordia University Fine Arts student uses in his street graffiti. He has asked that his real name not be used because of the nature of his work.
Graffiti is an ephemeral form of expression, and Bosny's fresh piece might be removed by the city in a few days, or it might be preserved for months or years.
"Graffiti is something you see every day. We know it's an effective means of communication," Bosny says.
"Whether it's functional or useful is debatable, but it works."
In recent years, there's been a growing interest in graffiti in mural form in Montreal. The city is investing more money into decorating its brick walls.
This year will mark the fourth installment of Mural Festival — a two week festival during which artists from different parts of the world paint the alleyways around The Main — and the 20th anniversary of Under Pressure Festival, an urban art event.
But other forms of street art hold a less-esteemed position in the minds of the general public.
Tags, burners, throw-ups, murals, stencils, and wheat pastes — they're just some of the many types of guerilla urban art that can be found around the city.
Beauty and the streets
Miss Teri is another graffiti artist with a personal mission to bring beauty to the streets.
Her romantic take on the graffiti style is informed by the Rococo period.
She describes her style as expressive, juicy and feminine.
"It has to be beautiful. It has to catch your eye," she said.
In her most recent work, Miss Teri has been depicting the figure of the Rococo woman — long curly hair draped over a fluffy, multi-layered pastel dress — on decaying brick walls around the city.
"I like to mix things that are grim with things that are romantic," said Miss Teri.
"That came with my experience of being a woman that's really girly, but really tomboy at the same time."
The countless murals around the island have earned Montreal a reputation as a young and vibrant city, but a more clandestine artistic expression exists beyond the limits of the most famous murals of Saint-Laurent Boulevard.
Both Bosny and Miss Teri have taken their art to the streets and transformed pieces into works displayed at public galleries.
Visibility and perception
Once the average 9-to-5 worker has settled down for the night in a suburban triplex, Bosny quietly gets ready for a night mission.
Under the moonlight, adrenaline starts pumping through his veins as he selects the colours for his piece and chooses a spot.
Visibility is the most appealing aspect of graffiti, Bosny explained.
"The fact that I can do something, have it travel and be seen by people along the way is very powerful for a 13-year-old," he said, reminiscing about his first tag.
While graffiti is created in the street, it's presence is much stronger and enduring online, Bosny says.
"I'm examining vision and perception and the viewer's relationship to a piece."
To play with this contradiction, he began introducing a "glitch" in his visual vocabulary.
By overlaying or doubling the image on the wall itself or later in Photoshop, the image looks as if it has not downloaded properly on a mobile device.
"Images of art aren't always true to what's being shown," said Bosny.
"Confusing my viewers, making them unsure where the transformations occur, that makes me happy."
MTL After Dark is a collaboration between the Department of Journalism at Concordia University and CBC Montreal.
Undergraduate students and graduate-diploma students in a graduate-level multimedia course found and produced original stories on the theme of Montreal after dark.
Working in small teams, they spent the winter semester developing their stories in text, audio, video, photography, infographics, and maps.