Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Toronto's Newest Mural is a Game Changer

Watching the resurgence or rise of an area or neighbourhood can often be a slow, painstaking process, but there are certainly ways to jumpstart that growth. One way, as you can imagine, would be to have a prolific and famed artist paint an eight story mural on the side of a prominent building. The area around St.Clair and Yonge is pleasant and attractive, albeit a bit sterile, but perhaps this will be the catalyst for change, the sign that this area is looking to change its image...and fast.


You can't miss it, the artist Phlegm made sure of that. You may be thinking, initially, what kind of a name is Phlegm? Well streetartbio.com notes that, "The name Phlegm came from one of the four bodily humours in ancient Greek medicine; blood, yellow, bile, black bile, and phlegm. Phlegm was believed to be responsible for an apathetic and unemotional temperament." As it relates to street art then, I suppose we can imagine that he's uninterested in the response, but more interested in the piece of art itself. Or, perhaps he's just being deeply ironic. You can check out the formation of his art and this piece in particular at @phlegm_art on Instagram, and decide for yourself.

Phlegm, an artist originally from the UK, was lured to Toronto by the STEPS Initative, which is an organization that aims to use art to establish more vibrant and connected communities. As far as I understand, this is the first big name international artists that they've worked with, but I'm sure it won't be that last.

What makes this particular piece so striking is the way in which it appears from afar to be one body or organism, but when you get closer you realize that it's made up a variety of different neighbourhoods and Toronto landmarks. I was an English major, so I'll go ahead and analyze this and suggest that Phlegm and STEPS are implying that, while Toronto may appear to be a collection of separate entities, it's actually a functioning whole - an organism that relies on all parts of itself to thrive. If you look closely you can see the CN Tower, Old City Hall, the Flatiron Building, the ROM, the Canada Life Building and many more Toronto landmarks.

This is a piece of art made for Toronto that changes Toronto. It makes the St.Clair and Yonge area relevant again, at least to the average youthful art enthusiast. While I was there shooting some photos I saw at least a dozen people stop to take notice, and that's not always the case with new art in Toronto. It's a game changer because it's a sign that we're a city that can be a canvas for international artists, while at the same time, allowing that canvas to reflect the heart of our own city.