Monday, August 13, 2012

Adrian Hayles: Art at Street Level

Adrian Hayles: Art at Street Level

13 June 2011 No Comments

Adrian Hayles' Miles Ahead mural
By Anya Wassenberg
Adrian “Sawtay” Hayles may well be the most visible visual artist in Toronto. You’ve certainly seen his work if you’ve ventured into Kensington Market over the last few years, where his large scale outdoor murals add to the neighbourhood’s eclectic vibe.

In his most recent, a fluid composition called Miles Ahead, Miles Davis and his trumpet sprawl across the second floor of Natural Foods, with the tune emerging like flames from the end of the horn. It won’t come as a surprise to learn that you’ll often hear the strains of jazz coming from his studio. Completed over a recent Sunday afternoon into the evening, the piece represents his largest mural project yet, but only the latest commission in a growing artistic practice.

Adrian studied design at Humber College, but credits teaching staff at the now defunct Donovan Collegiate in Oshawa for first lighting the way to a creative career. “They encouraged me to develop the skills, to express myself visually.”

After graduating in 2000, he spent 4 ½ years designing for an online avatar video game aimed at children, continuing in the same vein for another few years when he moved on to inventing various characters and props for many of the cartoons you’ll find on YTV.

After striking it out on his own 2 ½ years ago, he began to explore where his finely honed drawing skills could lead him, including (among others) gallery shows, teaching life drawing classes under his own Behind The Front Studio name, Nuit Blanche events and naturally, a burgeoning reputation for building enhancement and outdoor art in Toronto.

Another recent piece adorns a restaurant in the Baldwin Village area near the AGO. “I haven’t actually had a chance to actually eat there,” he admits with a laugh.  Still another decorates the corner of The Bellevue Diner building in Kensington Market. That neighbourhood seems like the ideal locale for the free flowing spirit and rhythm of his paintings.

While the concept is a great one, the logistics of an outdoor mural can be another story. There are a few unique challenges inherent to the process of getting what seems like a good design on the page up onto the side of a building.

“Nothing was projected,” he says, meaning he was eyeing and adjusting the scale of all the drawing’s elements as he painted on the wall. “It was hard to get it accurate.”  The side of a time weathered building is also a vastly different surface than a prepared canvas or even an interior wall. Miles Ahead works with the angle of the building. “It plays with the canvas,” he explains, “the irregularities, the flattened spaces.”

Next up, Adrian’s work will be part of “Retro Revisited: Exploring the Anthropology of KICKZ Culture & Wearable Art” at the Arta Gallery in the Distillery District. The multi-disciplinary group show, which runs from June 27 to July 1, explores KICKZ culture – a look at the phenomenon of athletic footwear as art, commerce and cultural icon. From buildings to shoes, Adrian’s work looks at culture at street level.

See more of Adrian Hayles work at KICKZ

Anya Wassenberg is a longtime freelance writer with a specialty in arts and culture. Check out her blog

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