Local business arranged to have world-renowned graffiti artist Troy Lovegates create a mural on a prominent wall in Parkdale.
Bombing for beautification:
Famous graffiti artist comes home to make murals
By Tammy Thorne
Troy Lovegates aka "Other" was born in Toronto but calls San Francisco his home base these days where he enjoys a hilly 32-km bike commute to and from his studio. But he’s most at home travelling the world, painting on big walls and other public structures.
This summer, the well known artist is back in Toronto and back in the news. He’s part of a trio suing Terry Gilliam for using their art without permission in his latest film. The Hollywood Reporter broke the news: “Three street artists of some renown have filed a lawsuit over Terry Gilliam's forthcoming film, The Zero Theorem, starring Matt Damon…” The artists allege that the movie — about a computer hacker in search of meaning — violates the copyright they hold on a large-scale mural titled Castillo on public display in Buenos Aires: and it looks like they have a pretty strong case.
Troy Lovegates knows what it feels like to be a wanted man. Business owners and marketing gurus (and also Terry Gilliam, apparently) want what he’s got. In Parkdale - Toronto’s down-and-out turned up-and-coming west end neighbourhood success story - he’s recently done a couple of eye catching wall murals.
One mural (which has already been painted over) was at the CNE grounds and featured colourful bird heads and outreaching hands. His unique art looks like pasted-up prefab poster work from afar, but his creations are largely done with fantastically detailed brushwork, and, sometimes a bit of spray paint.
Photo courtesy of Troy Lovegates. Detail of larger mural done on the grounds of the Canadian National Exhibition.
On west Queen West, Kirk Sutterfield, owner of West End Comics, wanted a mural on the wall of his store that faces an auto body shop’s parking lot to “stop the ugly tagging”. The City approved the mural for the wall (with, noted Sutterfield, some wrangling). The idea is that vandals will respect a artist code of ethics and refrain from destroying the art with their simplistic, “ugly” spray-painted signatures aka "tags."
Sutterfield said, “I put the word out there because people kept tagging the wall and Frank, the owner of the garage next door, said please get someone to paint a mural… we were sick of the tags. So I started snooping around because I didn't have any money, but I wanted a mural on the wall. When I saw Troy I thought, 'Yes!' I like his stuff. I wanted to put some advertising there and I thought ‘Do I want to do a comics thing, nah. It doesn't have to be super heroes.'”
“I mean, it’s ridiculous, this guy has walls all over the world: Why not in Toronto?”
“Other” said he found it funny because he couldn’t find any takers for his mural art in Toronto before he moved away. “I got that wall after two years of trying to find a big wall to paint. I just walked in and asked him if I could paint it. Everyone else just wanted me to paint their family or their business [logo] on the side of their buildings but were not okay with my art. The art scene was so dead here I couldn't get any exhibitions or any walls so we decided to move away. I am on the road six months a year working in other cities that are more interested in what I do ....that is why it is so ironic that suddenly I got a mural here [in Toronto] after leaving.”
When Troy Lovegates grew up in Scarborough he apparently spent a lot of time in an old folks home that his parents managed, which might explain why most of his characters have craggy old faces., He is now working with his friend, local beloved prolific graffiti artist Elicsr, on a piece at Alexandra Park near Kensington Market. [Elicsr is a dandyhorse contributor who did the cover for issue 3.]
Elicsr and Other in Alexandra Park.
Some details below.
Sutterfield lives just around the corner from his comic shop and said he’s not worried about the neighbourhood gentrification because it’s inevitable, but also because the people who live in Parkdale are concerned citizens that are engaged with what’s happening in their ‘hood.
“I used to own but now we rent just down the street. I expect there to be condos across the street in a few years,” he said, adding he’d like to buy the West End Comics building where he’s been for two years now.
But, he notes that Toronto has a terrible track record for letting developers do whatever they want: “Developers will just do what they want and then pay the fine if they've broken any rules and that’s that.” Still, he said, “I don't really think gentrification is a bad thing.”
“I do think these murals are good for any neighbourhood. There's lots of wall space in Toronto that is vacant and our city should be filled up with art.”
The offensive tag (just below the no parking sign) is not directly on top of the artwork, but still represents a major faux pas among muralists.
In Parkdale above, this Other mural provides a sense of place and is a treat to the eye. The mechanics at the shop even asked me if I wanted them to move the cars to get a better shot!
Photo of Troy Lovegates in Spain by Erik Burke.
Troy Lovegates is a year-round commuter cyclist and recently borrowed a bike to get around Toronto while he was working here.
Thanks for beautifying Toronto!
Related on the dandyBLOG:
Rule of Law (with illustrations by Elicsr)