Artist Mitchell Chan’s work part of West Toronto Rail Path

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‘Dot_JPG’ chosen from handful of submissions to be displayed in three places along the West Toronto Rail Path

Originally from the Ottawa Valley, Mitchell Chan first moved to Toronto in 2006 with hopes of making it in the city as an artist.

“I had this notion I was going to pursue art as a career, and I really had no idea what I was doing,” he said.

He spent his first couple of months in the city on the second floor of the Gladstone Hotel on Queen Street West. Fast forward six years, and Chan will have his artwork displayed across the street from where he began his art career, thanks to an open call for public art pitches from Metrolinx and the City of Toronto’s StreetARToronto program.

Chan’s concept, a series of mosaic murals titled Dot_JPG, was a collaborative effort with his partners at Studio F Minus, a public art and design firm, Bradley Hindson and Michael Simon. Dot_JPG was chosen from a handful of submissions to be displayed in three places along the West Toronto Rail Path, around the Douro bend and Queen Street West noise wall.

“To be able to go from some anonymous wide-eyed artist to being able to leave my mark here is really exciting,” Chan said.

The art will be a series of tile mosaic murals that will mirror the landscape directly behind it.

The tiles, made of glass, will transform the Liberty Village and Queen Street West neighbourhood into “brightly coloured, pixelated patterns” that will give an effect of a glitch in technology, he said.

“We’re creating awareness of the digital filter of our perception, but we’re documenting it in a way that we view the world right now and that’s important because that’s going to change,” Chan explained.

“It will exist as a digital record of 2014; as the neighbourhood changes this will no longer line up with the background and that becomes another kind of glitch.”

The mosaics will work as a kind of optical illusion that will shift and change as people get closer or farther away from the mural.

“It’s kind of a tactile interactive thing that people can figure out on their own by interacting normally with it. You don’t push buttons, you don’t tweet at it, you just walk,” Chan said.

The concept was inspired by how society’s connection and near dependence on technology has framed our perception of the world around us. According to Chan, we’re constantly viewing it with a technological filter, which can be a phone or tablet. He added he’s not here to comment on whether it’s a positive or a negative for society.

“What we (Studio F Minus) want to do is always make sure we’re aware of it (the technological filter) and draw attention to it,” he said.

The art submission was well received by the jury, who on the Go Transit website said the concept “pushes the definition and expectation of street art in Toronto, mixing contemporary and traditional techniques and materials to create three vibrant murals that are as instantly pleasing as they are rich with deeper artistic meaning…The jury feels these visually arresting wall treatments will be thoughtprovoking and pleasing for years to come, reflecting the complexity and creativity of the community.”

The concept was first brought to the community in November during a consultation night. According to Chan, the community liked it enough and they made some changes from their comments, but wasn’t offended, he couldn’t think of a better crowd to show the art to.

“If there’s any neighbourhood where you’re going to pitch a conceptual public art piece this is it,” the former Parkdale resident said.

“You have a very sophisticated audience here, an audience that’s been living with art for a long time.”

He said the submission is a bit conceptual and doesn’t fall in line with the majority of public art splashed around the city that serves as “eye candy” he said. Chan said he hopes the approval of his art project will encourage more conceptual art to be showcased through the city’s StreetARToronto program.

“It’s a real struggle to inject discourse, concept and dialogue into public art projects,” he said.

“So to start making headway on that it’s really exciting.”

The mural’s construction will begin in spring.

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This article originally published in the Parkdale Villager

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