By Katya Conrad
“Winds in the east, mist coming in, like somethin’ is brewin’ and bout to begin…” What is about to begin, or more accurately what is already underway, is the huge PR campaign for Disney’s upcoming film Mary Poppins Returns. Today, for about the sixth time this week, an advert for the movie popped up on numerous social media platforms. Although I’m not pleased that Disney is trying to rework such a classic story, and the fact that Julie Andrews does not seem to be involved breaks my heart, there is a part of me that has a soft spot for this new cinematic endeavour. Mary Poppins, as a concept and story, never fails to make me think of Montreal’s beautiful art scene. One of my favourite murals in Montreal, entitled ‘Mary Pop Pop Poppins’ by MASSIVart and Antoine Tavaglione, is dedicated to Mary Poppins. This St. Laurent mural was not only featured on John Krasinski’s instagram, but also brings out the very sense of a jolly holiday that one needs when trudging through the streets of ice and snow in minus 20 degree weather.
Montreal’s murals create a fantastic convergence between the old residential buildings and modern glass skyscrapers. This mural in particular, with its bright colour palette and lighthearted theme, always catches my eye. It is hard to stay gloomy when faced with such a strong, youthful Disney aesthetic. As you walk from the towering buildings on Sherbrooke, with the heights of the Hilton behind you, it is almost comforting to be able to leave the stifling aspects of the downtown core behind and admire at a modern image that is effortlessly blended with red-brick houses and cafes.
If you have ever been down St. Laurent avenue during the day, you’ll know that it’s not exactly the most welcoming or even aesthetically pleasing street in Montreal, with its shut down strip clubs, closed bars, and the odd person trying to bypass the broken beer bottles left over from Friday night to go to one of the boutiques open in the daytime. Perhaps this is the reason why St. Laurent has one of the biggest collections of murals going all the way from Sherbrooke to the end of the street, as there is an abundance of miscellaneous artistic expression that aims to bring excitement and a constant sense of life to a street that is essentially nocturnal.
It is hard to find much information on the purpose or message of the mural but that is arguably what makes it so interesting. It is art for art’s sake, simply to brighten up the city, the streets, the winter season and to instil happiness in those who pass by it. This artwork acts as a practically perfect way to resort back to your childhood state for even a couple of minutes, with a faultless balance between humour and traditional representation of such a classic figure. The nature of murals themselves perhaps also takes away the obvious connotations of profit that are so easily recognisable in certain cases of modern art, where artists can become more like businessmen. However, by creating art that is free to view and accessible to everyone, murals take away the uglier side of contemporary art that takes away self-expression and only focuses on how much money a piece of work is worth. Although it is often difficult to separate art from business, it is something that these murals are able to achieve as they disregard any pretence of money-making, simply aiming to provide a way for artists to express their vision to and for a whole city.