Bullback riding children fly on walls paved with yellow flowers. The city has changed. Montreal has changed. One wall painting at a time. Bystanders open their eyes widely. Astonished. They are cheering in front of this scene. Straight out of the broken dreams of the neighbours and a street artist: Mathieu Bories alias, MATEO.
In his basement workshop, an art piece is growing. The young artist prepares his wall painting with shadows and light. Surrounded by a carpet of scrap paper, flying children take shape on gigantic white sheets of paper.
“When children play in the streets, it will remain in their memory. It’s positive. It’s colours, imagination: street art, tells Mateo, a smile in his voice. It makes me happy. It gives me the impression that I’m participating in a collective life. If you’re just alone, painting for galleries, you are not sharing anything!”
His Argentinian tea keeps his brain energized during long hours of sketching and cutting giant stencils. For ordinary people, they are simple black lines on a white background. For Mateo, it’s a living puzzle who slowly takes shape.
“People don’t imagine all the work behind these paintings: they think that the artist simply arrives in front of a wall and bingo, you draw. Just like that inspiration comes to you. But no. Not at all. To bring imagination in the city, it’s hard work” explains Mateo.
His travels inspire him. He gleans over newspaper clips and images gathered in old books and magazines around the world. Preciously stored in his little suitcase, those paper memories come out in his dreamlike art pieces.
Early in the morning, suitcase in hand, Mateo arrives at his wall. He knows that intense and long hours of work await him. His sketch, approved by neighbours, the owner of the wall and the City of Montreal, will soon come to life.
“People feel safer with a wall painting. It’s more pleasant to walk by” tells Virginie Frobert, project manager for Tandem, the community organization responsible for Mateo’s painting, the ninth this year.
This year, neighbours bought quality anti-graffiti varnish. They want to keep Mateo’s painting as long as possible.
“The neighbours want the wall to become a play area, where they can meet and bound, creating a better place to live,” explains Virginie.
Perched on the scaffold offered by the wall’s owner, Mateo gives life to his work of art with stencils, spray cans and hand drawn lines.
A bit worried, but delighted to give a piece of his building to Mateo, Mathieu Goulet tells us: “His name is known in the street art field. They won’t graff over his painting. We hope it’s gonna remain beautiful.”
Bystanders ask themselves: “Are they buffalos? Bulls?” everybody sees different stories or messages. But everybody agrees: “This is gonna change the neighborhood for the best.” Questioned by one of them, Mateo answers: “I don’t know if they are buffalos or bulls. What matters is that it touches you! This art piece is yours!”
A woman looks at the disappearing graffiti with satisfaction, saying: “Finally, it’s gonna be something beautiful to look at!”
Graffiti have a bad reputation for a lot of bystanders. “I hope it will not be a graffiti,” says an old man. Mateo explains: “Graffiti tells a political message. It is against the system. While street art is created to be beautiful and tries to appeal to people. It’s sometimes financed by the city. Street artists place messages through their work but more subtly.”
His muscles aching, his mind fuddled by spray cans and moments of doubts, Mateo stay confident. He’s also aware by the ephemeral condition of his work: “That’s the cycle of the street. I don’t care if they graff on my painting as long as they do something beautiful.”
“When I walk by one of my paintings, it makes me smile. I realize that so many people walk by it every day, says Mateo. It touches everybody, whoever you are, wherever you come from. That’s the most interesting thing about street painting.”
His work is nearly done as night falls. Imaginary children begin their ride on Montreal’s walls. They already touch passersby: “In the city, it’s everybody for themselves, tells a neighbour. While here, we walk by this work of art, and it makes us think. Beauty is at a hand’s reach!”