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stephane jaspert painting on rocks

Stephane Jaspert

About 5 years ago, I briefly stayed in Montreal for a program to learn French. The entire course was filled with people from across Canada. By and large, it was unsuccessful as we were much more interested in Montreal and the various intoxicating substances we could ingest in the city, but I do remember one instance where we went to Old Montreal. My group were excited, I wasn’t as much, and they tried to convince me one of the great things I could see was cobblestone streets. As someone who lived in Scotland for a year, I can tell you this: cobblestone streets are annoying. They’re uneven, almost always poorly maintained, and they’re just a pain to walk on. Old Montreal was filled with cobblestone streets, but thankfully there was a lot more interesting things to do than wait to roll my ankle.

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But I think if Stephane Jaspert had been in Montreal before I arrived, I would’ve been psyched to see cobblestone streets for the first and only time in my life. You see, Jaspert makes these uneven ancient streets interesting by doing something most cities refuse to do: replacing the stones.

Stephane Jaspert takes old pieces of cobblestone and repaints them with pictures of anything from iPad screens to blocks of Swiss cheese. These replacement stones turn old, dilapidated streets into something interesting again, less an obstacle and more a hunt for something new to experience. And while history buffs and my friends heading to Old Montreal may see this as some kind of desecration, I see it as making the most of a bad situation. Jaspert’s cobblestones encourage you to walk the streets, to take in the town as you hunt for small, almost throwaway art hidden in the cobblestone streets.

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The project started in 1999 when Jaspert, already with a decade of professional artistry behind him, decided to start painting cobblestones. He made contacts at the local public works department and soon after set about painting the stones and replacing old ones. In general, he starts working on the pieces without a clear idea of what he’ll do, taking in the shape and size of each stone to see what he can make. He then uses gouache or tempera that is sealed with an oil varnish spray, giving the pieces an extended life. After all, they’ll probably have cars and people walking all over them. Depending on the piece, Jaspert will use just one side, as is the case in his iPad screen or recreation of Picasso’s “Guernica,” or more sides, like his piece that resembles a very thick encyclopedia.

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To date, photos of nearly 200 of Jaspert’s cobblestones exist, which may or may not represent his output in the 15 years he’s dedicated to the project. According to him, he’s found his life’s work and plans on painting cobblestones “until my death.” The potential does seem nearly limitless, and it certainly makes for an interesting and mobile experience for the audience. Hopefully, he’ll keep leaving little treasures for people for years to come.

montreal mural festival artwork by etam cru

Montreal Mural Festival: Celebrating an Artform with a Giant Party

Imagine getting some of the best people of your particular interest all together in one place. You all get the opportunity to show off and then, while you’re enjoying doing your favourite thing in the world, you get to head off and party with your peers, your idols, and your friends. Does that sound like an okay time? Well, the Montreal Mural Festival thinks it’s a great idea.

Montreal is already home to a bunch of great festivals. Jazz Fest, the Comedy Festival, and even events like Osheaga attract the best artists, comedians, and musicians from around the world. They have an amazing setup for their events, encourage people to get excited and involved, and do it in one of the greatest cities in the world. The last time I was in Montreal, my friend told me that it was the first city they’d been to that felt like it breathed. I tend to agree. It has a special energy to it unlike other North American cities and wears that on its sleeve. Go anywhere in Montreal and you’ll experience something different from elsewhere.

In keeping with their love of only the best, the Montreal Mural Festival reached out across the globe, nabbing Australian muralist Rone and France-based La Diamantaire for their efforts. These two and many more international muralists were joined by Canadian artists like Stikki Peaches, Alex Produkt, and Matthieu Connery, all of whom worked together to give Montreal a mural facelift.

And while the muralists were glad to do their work, almost all of them took some time to enjoy the city, it’s people, and their fellow artists. The Festival itself proved to be a great distraction, scheduling no less than six official after parties packed with great music and plenty of other distractions. The event turned out to be somewhat of a meet-and-greet, the greatest networking meeting for mural artists in North America, and in one of North America’s greatest cities.

The Festival itself had a slow start and some organizational difficulties starting out this year. Anyone who knows Montreal has experienced its bizarre weather and the Mural Festival wasn’t spared. Supply shortages also lead to some delays, but all the murals were up and completed by the end. And, unlike other festivals that just leave behind abandoned tents and a lot of litter, the Montreal Mural Festival left behind some beautiful public art that everyone can enjoy.

Such highlights include Zoitan’s comic book and War of the Worlds-inspired mural, 2501’s kaleidoscope of black and white shapes and animals, and Cyrcle’s perspective-changing Pantheon. These are all just a taste of what Montreal got out of it’s latest mural festival. Hopefully these pieces will stay up until at least next year’s events, any hopefully the festival continues to attract the world’s best muralists and public art enthusiasts.

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VILX, FRANCE

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RONE, AUSTRALIA

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BEZT FROM ETAM CRU, POLAND

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ALEX PRODUKT, CANADA

For more great works of art visit the festival’s muralists page.