an investigative photo documentary

Exclusive 21-page photo essay from our investigative journalist team in collaboration with award-winning photojournalist Liam Maloney. Location: Toronto, Canada Copyright Wondereur 2021.

MEET with artist KWEST curated by world-renowned chef Susur Lee.

Kwest
1
ABOUT 10 TIMES A DAY, I CAN FEEL THE BUILDING RUMBLE.
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I don’t know how to describe it. It’s almost like a soulful pull.
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It doesn’t bother me - on the contrary.
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The sound is like a thunder and brings its energy wherever it’s going.
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IT’S LIKE WHEN YOU’RE IN A TRANCE: YOU’LL LET YOUR EYES BLUR AND YOUR MOTIONS TAKE OVER.
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I WENT TO MILITARY SCHOOL FOR A YEAR.
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I was a pretty explosive, high-energy kid. As a last resort, my parents sent me to this school when I was 15. It was a big turnaround for me. It helped me focus my energy and channel it in a good way.
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After high school, I was determined to travel and get out west so I bought a train pass. For almost 8 years, I kept travelling non-stop across North America, riding freight trains and hitchhiking.
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IT BECAME AN ADDICTION: TO BE BESIDE A TRAIN OR WRITE MY NAME ON IT EVERYDAY.
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Since the ‘30s and ‘40s, there’s been a vast group of hobos living on trains, travelling to find jobs. They would create a nickname for themselves and write these ‘monikers’ on the trains with oil sticks. These markings are like an archive of North America’s history.
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SOME PEOPLE SEE GRAFFITI AS DEFACING PROPERTY. FOR US WRITERS, IT’S ABOUT UPHOLDING MEANINGFUL TRADITIONS...
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... WE CALL IT THE ‘LORE OF THE TRAIN.’
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For me, painting on a train meant being part of this historical, human network.
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Painting on city walls is different. Only people in your city are going to see your work - and chances are it will get buffed off. With trains, your paintings travel across North America, reaching new audiences along the way.
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YOU’RE RELEASING YOUR ART INTO THE WORLD AND YOU NEVER KNOW WHEN IT’S GOING TO POP UP AGAIN.
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I STARTED DROPPING OFF SCULPTURES ON STREET CORNERS AND JUST LEAVING THEM TO WHATEVER HAPPENS.
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It’s been really good. These actions are just what it takes to get these pieces to be seen.
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I GUESS THIS MENTALITY OF NOT ASKING PERMISSION IS COMING FROM SOMEWHERE...