Written by Jaime Em. | On the cover: Willy Wales & Christina Mazzula.

This past weekend marked the 23rd year of Montréal’s Under Pressure International Graffiti Festival. Founded in 1996, Under Pressure is one of the longest running festivals in North America of its kind, bringing together writers, street artists, DJs, MCs and dancers from far and wide to create, compete, and celebrate graffiti and hip-hop culture. The result is reminiscent of New York City block parties from the 1970s; exuding energy, a strong sense of community, and passion for the urban arts.


To the left: Osmoze & Ankh One / To the right: LSNR & Le Monstr

The festival launched with full force on Wednesday at Foufounes Électriques for Beaux Dégâts, a recurring event that seeks to unite street art and the fine arts in friendly competition. As per tradition, teams went head to head to create 8×8 canvases within a two-hour time frame. Artists receive the theme, this edition being NBA Basketball teams and punchlines, just shortly before they start painting. Attendees are able to watch the erection of these works from start to finish, and observe the creative process of a variety of artists working with the same theme from many different approaches. They are able to vote by placing their empty beer cans in a bin allocated to each team; the winners are determined by the number of cans that fill their bin, giving can control a whole new meaning.

Under Pressure International Graffiti Festival, August 11th, 2018. Photo by Jaime Em.

To continue the celebration of creative expression, the Punchlines exhibition at Fresh Paint Gallery opened Thursday evening, and was not to be missed. Over 30 local and international artists came together creating works that experimented with lettering, language and expression. Past MURAL participants such as KASHINK, 123klan and Earth Crusher also participated in the expo. Artists incorporated wildstyle graffiti, typography, and pop cultural references into their pieces, to create both visually complex and vibrantly symbolic works. The exhibition ran for the duration of Under Pressure.


To the left: Nikki Kuntzle & Enok Ripley / To the right: Mono Sourcil, Carolina Espinosa & Her

Queens Creation, an annual series within the Under Pressure Festival, offered a variety of events on the Friday and Saturday of the festival, celebrating women and their contributions to urban culture. Panel discussions, live painting, dance battles, performances and workshops sought to provide opportunity to bring together female artists and the public to educate, spotlight, and promote their continued participation within the urban arts.

Under Pressure International Graffiti Festival, August 11th, 2018. Photo by Jaime Em.

St. Catherine E. was where the energy of the festival thrived; dance battles, skateboarding, and musical performances filled the streets, embodying the community spirit that Under Pressure is known for. Off of St. Cats, the smell of aerosol paint filled the streets, and writers and artists gathered to coat the freshly buffed black walls and alleys on Saturday and Sunday. Ranging from wildstyle graffiti pieces to image-based artworks, the walls have once again been claimed and decorated until next year’s buffing. Sunshine and good company made this year’s Under Pressure yet another success. Be sure to make your way down to the area to check out the new works.