The streets of Montreal are filled with all sorts of graffiti, wheatpastes, and murals, but the artist Swarm is one of few that stand out among the rest. Originally from Ottawa, Ontario, the multi-disciplinary artist started doing street art in Toronto in 2011, and has been Montreal-based since 2014. Heavily inspired by outer space, bright colours, portals, and the void, her wheat pastes and sprays add an ethereal, dreamy vibe to the city’s infrastructure.
Aside from that, she has been involved with Unceded Voices since 2014, a collective of anti-colonial street artists, participated in OFFMural-Es (2014), a feminist/anti-corporate/anti-colonial street art movement, and was a featured artist in Street Meet Saskatoon (2015), an annual public/street/graffiti art festival. While a lot of her work is politically charged, Swarm is also a master of celestial imagery which fuels her work across many disciplines.
While popular motifs of space beings/plants, portals, and naturally occurring patterns in space and nature seem literal on the surface, in her artist statement she talks about them as symbols for abolishing oppressive power structures, her experiences with gender identity, gender oppression, and being multi-racial. These themes carry over from her political work into the work she does where the audience only sees the surface and is left to interpret the meaning, which is intended to provoke feelings of boundlessness, transcendence, and hope.
It’s important to note that Swarm is a multi-disciplinary artist because she doesn’t fall into one category. Other than street art, she practices studio arts, printmaking, makes jewellery, and creates beautiful installations in Montreal’s DIY scenes.
Sleepover Drone!, a recurring event at Mile-End DIY-space La Plante, often commissions Swarm’s installations to create an otherworldly experience for those interacting in the space. Metallic flowers, portals into space, soft drapery and lights strung around the room’s perimeter all sets the perfect ambience for the drone-music-centered events.
You can also see a permanent installation on the terrace of Casa del Popolo, which includes a pink fence, giant moons and space plants at the very least. You’ll have to go check it out in person to see it, or scroll through her instagram to find photos. Wherever you see her installations, it’s always magical and makes you feel like you’re in a dream.
Swarm also has an Etsy store, Maison Cinq, where you can buy stickers, screen printed patches, handmade jewellery and original art directly from her.
* Featured image: Wheatpaste (2016), photo credit: Swarm