It is on a grand scale that Mural is preparing. If the festival takes place from June 8 to 18, the public can already see the flagship work of its 11th outfit.
From the air, the huge grassy fresco unveiled Monday at the foot of Mount Royal is spectacular. Signed by the French artist Saype, it reproduces two outstretched and intertwined hands.
However, the public only has two weeks to admire the painting on grass, because it is ephemeral. You should know that Saype is a star of urban art and a master of creating huge paintings reproduced on natural canvas using an eco-responsible paint that will eventually fade with the growing vegetation.
Montreal is not the first city where Saype had access to one of its most emblematic spaces. In Paris, in 2019, it was on the Champ-de-Mars, at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, that he painted a first pair of welded hands, which would launch his project for the largest human chain in the world, which he called Beyond Walls.
Montreal is the 19th stop on the circuit after Andorra, Berlin, Ouagadougou, Istanbul, Venice, Brumadinho, etc. Then, the human chain will continue in particular at the foot of the pyramids of Egypt.
“It was by following the progress of his works around the world that Mural thought that we had to be part of the journey and the dialogue,” said Nicolas Munn Rico, president of the Mural festival, at a press conference on Monday.
“His works of art, which promote cohabitation, cooperation and world peace, are values that are at the heart of Mural. We did everything to have it in Montreal,” he insisted on the subject of Saype’s presence in the metropolis and inviting the public to immortalize in images his work of an ephemeral nature.
“It’s so extraordinary to have a thoughtful work in harmony with nature,” said Ericka Alneus, councilor for the City of Montreal in Rosemont–La Petite-Patrie and member of the executive committee responsible for culture and of heritage.
She recalled how urban art was not always considered “noble”, while a festival like Mural is the pride of Montreal today. She thanked Saype for coming to Montreal and for the strength of his work. “Today, all Montrealers can make it their own. »
Saype for his part thanked everyone who made his mural possible, from those who maintained the lawn to his close team of four people.
His journey explains his approach to the unifying message as the world becomes polarized.
Saype, born Guillaume Legros, started doing graffiti at the age of 14. From then on, he had the vocation to leave a mark in society. While continuing to paint, he became a nurse. He worked 10 years in a hospital, and this remains a period of his life essential to his work as an artist. “Caring for people in society through art,” he expounds.
The art world and the gallery community can be disconnected from certain social unrest, underlines the one who praises the importance of keeping both feet on the ground.
It was from 2012 to 2015 that he refined his recipe for eco-responsible paint, he explained to us after the press conference.
In 2018, he was moved by a documentary presenting citizens going to save migrants on the Mediterranean, the volunteers of SOS Méditerranée. This inspired him to create a work in Geneva of a little girl tending (or recovering, depending on) a boat.
The artwork had such an impact – even politically – that Saype wanted to go further… and even more so when he saw the cost of the wall in billions of dollars than former US President Donald Trump wanted to build between Mexico and the United States.
It was then a revelation to create the largest human chain in the world as an antidote to withdrawal.
“Art can make things happen,” he said Monday.
It took four days – from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. – of painting to complete the mural on the grass on the east side of Mount Royal, at the corner of Parc and Mont-Royal avenues.
“As I use natural pigments, it’s a lot of logistics,” says the man who built an image bank of some 2,500 hands. Known people (tennis player Roger Federer, for example) and people met in the street to put everyone on the same level.
If Saype is so delighted with his first visit to Montreal, it is precisely for the diversity and openness of the people. He intends to stay in town for the opening cocktail of the Mural festival on Thursday.