Culture | From decay, splendor

Open air gallery brings life to a forgotten place

It’s just an alley in the Plateau – at least that’s what some passersby would think if they were rushing along. Le Majestique oyster restaurant backs into it, a few cars are parked inside, and littering the ground is an array of cardboard boxes, empty buckets, and other oddities. The walls, however, are a different story.

This is an open air street art gallery, a space that several street artists have used to house their huge, beautiful murals. A project in the works since Mural Festival this July, the gallery came together under the direction of Turtle Caps, a street artist from Queens now based in Montreal. In an interview with The Daily, Caps said, “The management [of the restaurant] was dragging its feet for months […]. [When I] approached Le Majestique for the fifth time, [the] new manager [reached] out to the building owner who gave instant permission, which allowed me to start organizing the project.” Comprising “the best people who fit that location,” according to Caps, the project was entirely uncompensated. “I received no pay for this, nor did the artists that followed me into there. We did it [out of] love.”

“I received no pay for this, nor did the artists that followed me into there. We did it [out of] love.”

An oversized image of a boy lying on seemingly tumultuous ground immediately greets you walking into the space. A house erupts through his stomach in a psychedelic twist – the whole scene surreal. Painted by street artist Bruno Smoky, the mural pops with bright blues and greens that keep your eyes hovering, captivated.

Next to Bruno Smoky’s piece, Turtle Caps has painted a mural of one of his trademark turtle shells. The shells he frequently depicts are a play on the turtle shells that characters throw at each other in Mario Kart. However, with remarkable creativity, he adds a new dimension that transforms the cartoons from resurrected video game culture to pure artwork. Surrounded by mountains and bright red birds, the gigantic turtle shell on the wall is a dark forest green with the texture of a thick bush. Two miniscule workers care for it: one pruning, the other watering from a ladder leaning across a fresh, blue sky.

In the darkest corner of the alley is a portrait painted by street artist Shalak Attack of three animals. What at first glance looks like the head of a bear expands laterally into a fox and an owl. The three animal heads make up one hypnotic form and somehow distract the viewer from the restaurant dumpster nearby. The colours are distinguishable but the curves of the lines cause them to move into one another with ease, creating one cohesive portrait from a multitude of shades and forms.

Altogether, the gallery leaves a lasting impression as a testament to the power of street art. Stepping into it is immersive. “It was really beautiful to witness the creation of it […]where you have no idea where [the creativity is] coming from,” a community member living nearby said. As Phil Derville, another community member, put it, “That spot needed to be beautified because it smells really bad[…]and just having beautiful art makes the smell disappear.”

“That spot was so grungy and disgusting, it needed to be brought to life” added Caps. “I had a vision to revamp that spot. It was one of those places here in the city that wasn’t being utilized properly, and I had to do something about it […] It worked out and ultimately contributes to the growth of Montreal’s street art scene, so mission accomplished.”

Saint-Dominique’s open air street art gallery is located around 4119 Saint-Dominique.