Toronto landmarks artistically portrayed in downtown mural

Artist's conceptual rendering. Image courtesy of kg&a
Artist’s conceptual rendering. Image courtesy of kg&a

The design has now been revealed for global street artist Phlegm’s month-long residency in Toronto. Rappelling off a 12-storey building at Yonge and St. Clair, Phlegm will create a bold artistic statement to launch the once-iconic neighbourhood’s massive revitalization.

Phlegm’s large-scale mural will transform one of midtown Toronto’s most highly visible walls. 1 St. Clair West will become an artist’s canvas for all to experience this summer.

Elegant and complex in shape of a human form, the mural is a metaphor for the living, breathing nature of the city and emergence of soon-to-be-revived Yonge and St. Clair. Set to undergo an explosion of rapid change, the transformed area will see unified public realm improvements, architectural facelifts of the intersection’s buildings, new retail and engaging public signage.

Award-winning public arts organization, The STEPS Initiative, partnered with City of Toronto’s StreetARToronto (StART) program and Slate Asset Management, the catalyst for the area’s revitalization, to bring the mural to fruition.

“Yonge and St. Clair was once a vibrant and bustling area, but in recent times has been sorely overlooked. Our goal is to make lasting, impactful public-realm improvements that will revive this once-proud neighbourhood, and the mural is our first step in injecting a dynamic new energy into Yonge and St. Clair,” says Slate managing director, Lucas Manuel.

Holding itself in its own embrace, the form evokes a planetary sphere providing ample contour space to depict the city’s ravines. Reflecting the geology of Toronto’s urban landscape, skyline and most recognizable landmarks – The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), Old City Hall, St. Lawrence Market, and The CN Tower, among other iconic architecture, comprise the form’s skin.

“I chose to work with the human form because it’s really what a city is,” states Phlegm. “A city is really just a mark left by all those billions of people that added to it and made it what it is.”

The experience of viewing the mural is marked by two distinct, dramatic moments. Its immense scale looks sharp as a figure from a distance, while drawing viewers into the finely-etched details as they get close.

The mural is supported by StART, which funds one mural by an international artist a year, Slate Asset Management LP, CBRE, CIBC, Rexall and Dulux Paints. Phlegm was selected from a shortlist of 10 global artists.

Inspired by the communities that make up the neighbourhood, the design was informed by a series of community consultations. STEPS canvassed area workers, residents and businessowners, asking what Yonge and St. Clair means to them. Weaving the feedback into the mural’s aesthetic, Phlegm created a work authentically reflecting the neighbourhood.

The community will continue to be a part of the process as the public is invited to watch Phlegm paint live over the month of July suspended on swing stages; a highly-complicated setup made necessary by the building’s built form, which features no ground access from the western exterior wall because it is directly attached to a shorter adjacent building.

Placing art on unusual spaces is a distinguishing characteristic of both Phlegm, as an artist, and STEPS, as an organization.

“An important part of what we do at STEPS is produce public art in unlikely spaces,” says STEPS founding director Alexis Kane-Speer. “Embracing the existing built forms of the city and challenging ideas around what constitutes cultural space is inherent to our approach. We see canvasses everywhere.”

Phlegm commenced painting the mural on July 8, 2016. The public can watch him live at 1 St. Clair West or watch a live-stream of the artist at work at: Tag the mural on Twitter using: #PHLEGMPAINTS