The Art of the Underpass

4 November 2014 — I’m fascinated.

I build my latest walk around a return visit to the brand-new murals in the King St. East underpass. Now that the artists have gone away, maybe I’ll actually see the art!

detail, King Eat underpass murals

I approach through one of my favourite tangles of little dead-end streets & lanes, squeezed as they are in that tight triangle where Queen & King streets & assorted ramps all fold into each other. Little old cottage-y homes, up against wooded berms …

on St. Paul Street

And then I twist through the lane south of that final home, and turn into another lane, then onto a through artery, and …

4 painted in total; these 2 on s. side King

… pretty soon I’m on King, staring south at the two painted trestles on that side of the street.

They’re a form of sculpture, aren’t they? Pure function, given artistic dimension. They’re not exactly up there with Stonehenge, but, still, there is something monumental about the scene. (The eye close-up at the top of this post, by the way, is courtesy of the woman’s face on the left.)

I cross the street, circle behind the trestle that’s on the right in the photo above. Look again at that photo: see the compass to the left of her face, in the T-arm? Each trestle is painted both sides, sometimes with quite different images but always some kind of segue, one to the other. That compass is the segue to …

south face, a south-side trestle looking north

… the big theme on the obverse side, early navigation & exploration. Now I want to check the obverse face of the trestle across King from this one. (I know, I could have been better organized. Instead, I just keep criss-crossing the street as curiosity strikes.)  From here on the south side, I see a radiant woman’s face …

child theme, obverse face of a north-side trestle

… but on its obverse side, it’s a different theme. Well, a related theme, we might argue — the importance of children, the importance of education for children.  There is a clear subtext as well: the importance of love & care & respect for our little ones. The child’s book literally says “love,” and one of the messages in that beautiful calligraphy includes “… the leaders of future generations…”

These works glow. Apart from messages & monumentality, as works of art they simply glow. Look at these pencils!

pencils on a T-arm of the child-theme trestle

The murals are a mix of world themes (transportation, children’s rights…) and very local references.

The obverse face of this north-side trestle may in general be about labour & the working man, but it is very specifically a reference to a grand Victorian industrial complex just blocks from here, the Gooderham and Worts Distillery. (Now repurposed as the residential/retail/commercial Distillery District.)

north-side trestle, with Gooderham & Worts reference

And the obverse face of a south-side trestle is all about Right Here, right where I’m standing. Up the central trunk of the trestle, it’s a composite of modern towers, Victorian row housing, & great curving expressway ramps.

south face, a south-side trestle

Flaring along one arm, the latest streetcar design to hit our streets.

one T-arm of a south-side trestle

And along the other arm, an amazing demonstration of what street artists have to deal with as they paint. No smooth canvases for them — they have to adapt to every bump & angle. Or, as here, to every pipe & bucket.

other arm, same trestle

I think a moment about the technical skill this must require, and then, finally-finally, move on.

And if you were to guess that I might stop for a latte on the way home … why, you’d be right.



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  1. Rosa de los Vientos

     /  5 November 2014

    Absolutely great, art can change the world. Thanks!! xxx

    • I’m so happy to pay tribute, to celebrate these amazing people who contribute so much to our cityscape

      • Rosa de los Vientos

         /  5 November 2014

        Yes they do! And it’s great that you see all this and show it on you blog.

  2. I’m so moved by these murals and the way you captured them. What a tribute to the city…if you don’t mind I’m going to forward this to a friend who has a blogging collective – volunteers who love the different sides of Toronto. You have such a great blog!

    • (I started a reply & think I erased it, so you may get 2!) Do please send this to your friend but please also make sure she knows that I’m not any kind of expert on street art & don’t present myself as one. I’m just curious, and celebratory of the art (as opposed to stupid mindless vandalism) and I give credit where I can. Toronto does have a number of both public & private organizations that support street art, and I’m happy about that.

  3. nigel pleasants

     /  6 November 2014

    Truly remarkable street art! N.

  4. I like this project. Its near my part of town I’ll have to go see it in person.


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    "Traveller, there is no path. Paths are made by walking" -- Antonio Machado (1875-1939)

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