Street Art, Real & Virtual

6 January 2014 — Did you ever think, “This is the digital age! What’s up with still smearing physical paint on walls?” Seems obvious now, but the question never crossed my mind.

Until I looked into these eyes.

alley off Parliament, next to Face Furniture

More precisely, at the glasses over the eyes. This vivid mural suddenly appeared on a Parliament St. alley, and I would have taken a photo and walked on… except for the glasses. Because the mural is on the side of a rather swell optician’s shop, Face Furniture, and maybe those glasses are not pure coincidence.

Of course they’re not. The optician’s story told me a bit about Toronto’s graffiti bylaws and, even better, led me to artist-architect Javid (tag JAH), more of his physical work, and the digital-era projects he’s been exploring while working on his Master’s thesis in architecture at U of Toronto.

“This young man came in and asked if he could paint a mural on the side wall of the building,” the optician told me. “I said yes, because it’s going to be painted on one way or another, might as well be by someone with talent. I looked at his sketches, asked if he’d put a pair of glasses on the face, and he said yes. I agreed to pay something because now the mural — even if just very subtly — will promote my store. I also promised to phone the city and say I’d agreed to the art. That way, I wouldn’t have to have it removed.”

I looked up Javid’s website (see Click!!), and got really intrigued.  He has a lot of awards, a lot of commissions, a physical artistic presence ranging from Ontario to New York to Colombia, a history of social enterprise and mentorship (e.g. his work with the Central Tech graffiti festival each year, and his co-founding of Under the Radar) — and a whole intellectual/hands-on exploration of graffiti in the digital age.

I’ll get to that!

First, a couple more of his murals here in town, which I visited Saturday. Yes! For two blissful days, the temperature crept just above freezing! Celebrate the zero!

"Soul of Kensington," JAH, Augusta & Baldwin

Smack in the heart of Kensington Market, shining out from Augusta & Baldwin: “Soul of Kensington Market.” Javid dedicates it  to the resilience of the people of that neighbourhood, and calls it his interpretation of Raft of Medusa, a major work by French painter/lithographer Théodore Géricault (1791-1824) that hangs in the Louvre.

Just a bit farther south on Augusta, at Wales, Javid transforms a whole house…

house at Augusta & Wales

… in a top-to-bottom work called, “Whole House.” (What did you expect?)

All good, you’re probably saying to yourself, very well done, but… digital age, remember?

Yes. Now for the fun.

Go visit another JAH mural, this one on the S/W corner of Dundas St. West & Beverley (right opposite the AGO, if you want to get your bearings). You’ll see this.

mural detail, JAH, Dundas W & Beverley

More physical art — but if you first visit Javid’s website, download the “junaio” app for your smart phone and scan the QR code on that same webpage, you can see a whole lot more. Either by then viewing the photo also on that webpage, or by trotting on down to Dundas & Beverley and aiming at the real thing.

No. I’m not going to show you. Experience it for yourself. What you’ll see is an example of AR — Augmented Reality — a virtual reality superimposed on a physical one, triggered by the street art.

Oh, okay, I’ll show you one example, which I have captured from Javid’s website. It’s a screen shot taken with an app-enabled iPad of a mural far from Toronto, located in Ciudad Bolívar, Bogotá, Colombia.

Javid spent the summer of 2013 in Bogotá, working with German Silva to develop an AR app for smart phones. He also worked with local street artists (his site credits KNO Delix, Oso and the Khimera Attach Crew) to paint a huge mural with embedded AR. The mural is on the side of a prison; its topic is the 7 Sins. ¡Cómo no!

Here’s that screen shot. The naked eye sees only a terrific, 2D mural covering the entire physical red wall; it’s the AR that takes you inside the prison and reveals the bird.

7 Sins AR mural, Bogota, from website

Visit his website, click on the 10 round images on its home page, and explore. For example:

  • The disc with “7” in it takes you to #JAHREALITY — Architecture, Augmented Reality & Street Art.
  • Click on the person at a computer to discover Motion Tracking Tags in 3D.
  • Hit the spray can and whoop! You’re into Jenesis and the digital spray can — all the possibilities of virtual painting on walls that, to the naked eye, reveal only a smooth e-façade.
  • Choose the white sculpture or the bottom-right image showing the edge of a face, and you enter quite different worlds from those above — respectively Sacred Spaces (Public Space, Islam and Post-9/11 NYC), and ‘Alaama  (an expression of Sufi Islam through mixed media paintings of the artist’s vision of feminine divinity).
  • Click images of art shown here, for their back-stories.

While still on Augusta, I took one more photo of a JAH mural. Very much back to the real, physical world. Oh, so physical.

Rob Ford - "We can't afFORD this"

Yes, our mayor. A major physical presence, if ever there was one. “We can’t afFORD this,” indeed.


Leave a comment


  1. love this walk…and your sources…also i love the street graffiti in Bogota…happy new year Iceland Penny!

  2. Wow! Fantastic post and great back story about this artist and his work. I love the whole house mural. If feels so cheerful and garden-like.

  3. Great walk through a street artists story! What I don’t get though is the ‘tags’ from others that mar some of his art…wonder how he feels about it and what it means?

    • I’ve learned that some street artists who, on principle, only do illegal work (work not commissioned and therefore against our bylaws) hold legal street art in contempt and show their displeasure by ‘bombing’ it.

  4. Forest So Green

     /  7 January 2014

    Wow, great photos of street art, Annie

  5. What an interesting post Penny….and love hearing about the tension between the legal and illegal street artists!
    This guy seems very talented, and what lovely splashes of colour in the midst of winter.

  6. Michael Sinnott

     /  10 February 2014

    such an amazing and well done post Penny! Im also a big appreciator of the street arts here in Toronto and through my documentation have been fortunate enough to meet and befriend Javid. I live in Cabbagetown and he expressed interest in getting some work up in the area. That face furniture wall had some really bad stuff on it before, but provided a great canvas for viewing, so I approached the owner and spoke with him as someone from the neighborhood who was a big fan of street art. I was basically asking for his permission for a friend of mine to use his wall as a canvas. He agreed as long as he wasnt going to see any legal ramifications, and as long as he could meet and speak with Javid first. I knew everyone would be pleased, and was ecstatic to see the final result. I understand Tewfik has gotten quite a bit of attention for the piece, and as an open minded businessman supporting the local arts ,it is absolutely well deserved! So glad to see you spreading the love…if your interested he did another wall (with permission) at Sinate Creations, another business in Cabbagetown, just north of Carlton. Some exciting projects coming up in the neighborhood soon too, dont hesitate to shoot me an email at if your interested. Thanks again and very well done!!!

    • Good for you, Michael, and thanks for filling in that part of the Javid-&-Face Furniture story. I have emailed you separately, as you invited me too. Thanks for that as well!

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