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Four muralists decorating town in inaugural festival

Artist Five Eight works on his piece on the Bear’s Paw Bakery alley wall. | J.Stockfish photos

Jason Stockfish |

The first annual UpLift! Jasper Mural Festival launched as four muralists converged on the town to prove that walls are for more than just structural integrity.

Each artist is bringing a unique vision to a blank canvas in Jasper’s downtown, and over the next few days, passersby can watch as works of art that will live on for years are given life.

Jasper-raised muralist Keenan Sillence is one of the artists taking part in the inaugural festival.

Sillence has been gifted the back wall of Timberwolf Rocky Mountain Emporium to leave a lasting impression in a place he long called home.

UpLift! is Sillence’s first mural festival as an artist but not his first mural.

Many will be familiar with Sillence’s first as it ornaments the inside of the Jasper Aquatic Centre.

Sillence spoke of participating in the festival, in the town where he grew up, alongside accomplished peers.

“This is a big step for me and I’m just stoked to take on this challenge.”

For Sillence, it means a lot to give back to the community that raised him and shaped him into the person he is today.

“This just feels important for me to leave my mark in Jasper,” he said.

“It’s a good opportunity for me to prove myself… I couldn’t say no.”

Muralist Keenan Sillence paints his mural behind Timberwolf Rocky Mountain Emporium.

Over a morning coffee, Sillence and the festival’s headliner, Fluke, discussed the rookie’s canvas with the veteran offering words of experience while Sillence soaked it all in.

Around the corner from where they stood, on the wall of the Snowdome/Andromeda building, is where Fluke has been amazing onlookers.

From Montreal, with a foundation in graffiti, Fluke has been creating timeless pieces across the globe for the past two decades.

After only a few days, a once bland parking lot wall has become a masterfully crafted piece conceptualized by the artist as a clash of two things; images indicative of his style colliding with the idea of force.

“I tend to overlap different images together using these ribbons to dissect and slice through the composition,” Fluke said.

“But the bigger theme here is really this kind of collision of force that I thought was important, given that we’re in the middle of the mountains and tectonic plates, and the formation of these mountains is all (the result of) an immense amount of power and energy.”

Fluke noted harmony is found in his work in the contrast between nature and manmade objects 

In his piece for UpLift!, the artist has included a train and local fauna to express that sentiment.

“I think the train is a very good representation of raw manmade things. (It’s) steel, it’s loud, it’s dangerous, but yet it’s beautiful at the same time.”

Curved motion is another theme found in many elements of the piece.

“I tried to find objects that symbolize that twist and turn because when you look at it from afar when it’s done, it’s going to have this atom feel to it, with the sun being the centre, almost like a DNA strand, or galactic, like the rings around Saturn,” Fluke said.

Headline artist Fluke stands in front of his mural on the Andromeda/Snowdome building.

Two blocks away from Fluke is an old friend and fellow muralist with roots in graffiti from Montreal named Arly, aka, Five Eight. 

Five Eight is repurposing the alley wall of the Bear’s Paw Bakery with a stunning use of colours and distorted motion inspired by his experience as an apprentice neon light bender and his time working in a commercial neon light shop.

“My work focuses on visual technology, specifically signage or analog television textures,” Arly said.

“This (piece) is an assembly of all the things I have a personal interest in that inspire my work, like neon light and cathode-ray tube TVs and the textures specific to that technology.”

The artist explained his painting is recreating a photo of his model, lit only by neon lights, then digitally distorted.

Pedestrians offered words of admiration as they passed.

The fourth artist at the festival is Kalum Teke Dan.

Dan is an accomplished artist of the Blood tribe, born and raised in Calgary, who started painting murals full time in 2016.

Of the four artists, he is the only painter to solely use brushes.

He has been hired to paint 16 murals this year, with one taking him to Nigeria in November.

“I’m blessed in life. I’m living my dream.”

Dan spoke of the inspiration for his piece, “Sacred Fire,” that he is painting on the Astoria Hotel.

“I try to focus on presenting pride through my work. When people see my work, I want them to feel proud,” he said. 

“Through the residential school system, they took my people’s pride away, so I’m just here to show the pride back through my work.”

There will be an unveiling party of Dan’s work on Friday evening on the Jasper Pizza Place patio, a location that now enjoys a spectacular view of “Sacred Fire.”

Tickets are available at Andromeda/Snowdome until they are gone.

Kalum Teke Dan works on his piece “Sacred Fire” for the Uplift! Jasper Mural Festival.

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