International artist to paint St. Clair tower

Phlegm to use swing stage to adorn 1 St. Clair West with his work

The building at 1 St. Clair West is going to get the international treatment.

STEPS Initiative, Slate Asset Management and councillor Josh Matlow are combining forces to have world-renowned artist Phlegm design a 12-storey mural for the west facing side of the building.

Currently the side of the building is a flat, brick facade without windows, and Slate, which owns eight of commercial buildings at Yonge and St. Clair, wants to use the mural as the first stage of revitalizing the intersection.

It’s a plan that asset manager Katie Fong, as well as her colleagues, are excited about.

“Being the largest landlord and investor in the area, we have a lot of redevelopment plans to revitalize the retail in all the buildings,” she said. “We’re going to be there a long time and improving a lot of things.”

Enter STEPS, a public arts organization, that consults communities on projects and typically brings in local artists to add flare to a neighbourhood.

Phlegm, based out of the U.K. is the first international artist STEPS has worked with, and it was mainly because the site at 1 St. Clair West is only accessible via a swingstage. He takes his name from one of the four bodily humours in ancient Greek medicine.

He’s done work on the Royal Opera House in London, as well as on buildings in New York City, New Zealand, the Azores and Tunisia.

Anjuli Solanki, the director of community projects with STEPS, said Phlegm was chosen from a shortlist of 12 artists and the final decision came down to his ability to work on the site.

They’ve also consulted the community through surveys and community consultation. A questionnaire is still available through their website.

The mural will be the second largest in the city. Only the mural at 200 Wellesley Street, a 30-storey record breaker, is larger.

“We’ve been working exclusively with local artists but we feel this would be a unique experience to bring in an international artist and showcase Toronto as being a hub for this form of art,” Solanki said. “We’re hoping it brings some attention to highly acclaimed artists from Toronto as well.”

Phlegm is known to be elusive, and has avoided speaking publicly about the project.

“He’s a lovely person, but he’s definitely a little shy with speaking with the public,” Solanki said.

His work can be best described as having a childlike quality with a menacing undertone — a mix of the worlds of M.C. Escher and Lewis Carroll.

Regardless, Fong hopes the first step in revitalizing the intersection is well-received by residents.

“We’re really trying to bring it back to a live-work-play neighbourhood,” she said. “What we’re trying to improve is the retail and lifestyle amenities in the area.”

“It’s nice to start out on the right foot, and get that community feedback and end up with a final result that beautifies something that’s been overlooked for such a long time.”

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Posted: Mar 29 2016 7:45 pm
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto