Roadsworth: Streets of Montreal Transformed into Giant Playgrounds
Road art or street graffiti is usually created to question or communicate to everyday people existing issues and socially relevant themes In 2001, Peter Gibson sought to get the city of Montreal’s attention to build more lanes dedicated to bicycles. What began as a form of activism has transformed into this unique form of street art that is whimsical, fanciful and just plain good-humored art.
Most of the time using existing symbols, markings or objects on the streets, he jumps off to create subtle to obvious images that stimulate an otherwise mundane commute. Take for instance double yellow lines, meant to mark a no passing zone turned into electrical cords with male and female sockets cleverly painted at the ends.
Then there is the pedestrian lane turned fish, simply with a few adjustments to the stacked lines. The ubiquitous manhole is turned into a whirlpool, and then there are the parking lane lines meant to demarcate car lanes, transformed into windmills.
Gibson’s street art is interesting in how he creates these pieces on the asphalt using existing markings. They are strong expressions, while being subtle in form unlike often vulgar graffiti. True to his art, he has adopted the nom de plume of Roadsworth, inspired by the great Romantic era poet. He states “Where Wordsworth is a poet of words, Roadsworth is a poet of roads.” While the series began as a form of activism, it later evolved into a creative outlet where he is able to comment on social issues.
Gibson articulates his artistic journey on the asphalt,
“As my personal artistic process evolved, political concerns were eclipsed by artistic ones and I often felt more inspired by the process than I did by the message I was trying to convey. Marshall Mcluhan’s famous quote ‘the medium is the message’ is significant in this regard. The ubiquitousness of the asphalt road and the utilitarian sterility of the ‘language’ of road markings provided fertile ground for a form of subversion that I found irresistible. I was provoked by a desire to jolt the driver from his impassive and linear gaze and give the more slow-moving pedestrian pause for reflection. The humourlessness of the language of the road not to mention what I consider an absurd reverence for the road and ‘car culture’ in general made for an easy form of satire.”