Walk down most alleyway’s in Toronto or Montreal an you’ll find some incredible graffiti and mural work. Though street art has been prevalent for decades, society’s acceptance of it seems to have turned a significant corner more recently. Governments are funding street art programs, real estate owners are offering up wall space and more and more artists are being compensated for their outdoor work. Nowadays, tourists can even books walking tours around each city and explore some of the incredible art work which lies within our urban sapce.
Toronto’s Kestin Cornwall is building off this popularity with a social art initiative. Cornwall hits notable alleyways in Canada’s two biggest street art hubs and leaves behind vibrant 3”x3” wood blocks in his signature style. The pieces are adorned on the back with nothing more than the date, series info, a signature including Cornwall’s crown brand. The rest, you might say, is up to those who find the work. More on the project:
What prompted this endeavour?
I grew up looking to artists from the 80’s and 90’s before social networking who really took it to the streets to showcase their work. I’ve always respected that. This was a way I could share and interact with people I’ve never met or who would have otherwise not had a chance to own some of my work.
Are you targeting specific areas in Toronto and Montreal?
I often choose area’s that have a relationship with my work. I might know someone in one of the shops that happen to exit on the alley or laneway where I put up some work. I like to choose spots that juxtapose with the work or areas that have other art work for the images to interact with. I read a lot, currently I’m studying the Gaze Theory and how the viewer interacts with the subject as well as what’s depicted in the work. I think about the interaction often before the install
What happens when someone finds the block? Should they hide it again?
Everyone responds differently, there was a little girl who saw me installing one on Dundas West, she ran over and was jumping as high as her little legs could to try and reach it. I was down the street and happened to notice. As I was walking back to hand her a block, her dad came out, picked her up, she took the block off the hook, and she took it with her. Four or Five years old with an art collection. I found one being resold online, that was interesting. I just want them with people who will enjoy them, use the art work to improve a space, add to an environment. Lol yes, they could hide them again.
Tell us about the artwork itself.
I usually work large. A friend of mine challenged me to work smaller. I wanted to push the idea further and find a way to create a large amount of art, so far I’ve made over 150+ small works that can be shared. I also wanted to allow happy mistakes and chance to play a major role in my image creation and the sharing of the work. I like mistakes, ink bleeds, areas that are worn away or lifted and art work affected by age, sun, rain and natural elements. I think happy mistakes, simplicity and chance are beautiful fundamentals of creating and are seen in each block. They’re hand cut, hand painted, hand printed and glossed by hand so each block is slightly different. Most or my work is done by combining hand drawings, digitally removing the human hand and then forcing the element of the human hand back into the work. In the 21st century everything is affected by digital media and the internet. Most works of art created today will be seen on digital devises and on screens more times then in person. People view art shows online rather than going into galleries. I find it interesting that people will photograph the blocks in their outdoor environments, often with their cell phones and then digitally share them. The blocks encourage interactions, physically and digitally.
Why did you choose removable vs. doing it permanently?
I opted for a removable install of the blocks to indulge the idea of the art leaving with the viewer. I like the idea of art being time sensitive, like creating a painting and painting over the finished work after only being viewed a few times. It’s there, and then it gone.