Montreal artist Kevin Ledo is known for creating seductive images that combine elements of high-end fashion advertising and religious iconography. Many of his paintings examine the intersection between contemporary representations of beauty and the notion of divinity: works from painting series such as The Guiding Light and Ethereal Manifestations portray beautiful women within a luminous background of gold leaf. “I am captivated by ethereal wonderment and am concerned with idealism, beauty vs. divinity, mythology and mysticism,” states Ledo.
Born and raised in Montreal, Ledo travels extensively, and has created a variety of installations and murals worldwide. An artistic road warrior, his recent travels through Central America saw the creation of a number of murals in both public and private locations, many of which are documented on his blog. For his most recent project, Ledo made a special return voyage from Guatemala to his home town to create an ambitious installation at Flyjin restaurant and nightclub in the Old Port. Using 11,000 sheets of gold leaf in a space 80 feet in length, Ledo and his collaborators from Spkeasy Design Company created a golden tunnel leading to the entrance of the subterranean Asian brasserie. Check out the video by Karel Chladek documenting Ledo and his team at work here.
Drink & Draw MTL contributor Suzanne Hood recently spoke with Kevin about his experience creating his latest installation at Flyjin.
D&D MTL: You’ve been travelling quite a bit recently. How did it feel to return to your hometown to create a new artwork?
Kevin Ledo: The project at Flyjin was a complete whirlwind, as I only returned for the project and then headed right back to Guatemala. I didn’t have time to really see anyone or go anywhere during those two weeks, and so it ended up just being a teaser for moving back here. I did feel a little like a rock star though: returning for an art project, and then continuing on with my travels.
D&D MTL: Gold leaf is a recurring material in your work, but at Flyjin, you’ve created an immersive environment using 11,000 sheets of gold leaf. What inspired you to use gold leaf to this extent? What kinds of technical considerations were involved in creating something like this?
Kevin Ledo: I was contracted for the project because Flyjin had this idea of a having golden tunnel from their entrance way into the main space, and since I had experience with gold leaf already, I was contacted for the job. I had done a much smaller installation with gold leaf a couple of years ago at Velvet club, and so I was invited to see how far I could take it with Flyjin. It was crazy ambitious, and so was I. I had the idea of applying the gold leaf sheets at a 45 degree angle, which was way more work that I could have imagined, but the end result is just magic though, and I think it was worth the hard work.
D&D MTL: The images you created for Flyjin — phases of the moon and an owl in flight — speak to the transition of the space at midnight from restaurant to club; however, these images also have spiritual weight to them. Given that much of your previous work has incorporated aspects of religious iconography and spirituality, what do these images represent to you? Did the nature of the space at Flyjin influence your artistic decisions?
Kevin Ledo: The space at Flyjin and the transformation it undergoes on a regular basis from restaurant to nightclub had a lot to do with what I created. I wanted to marry the idea of transformation and night creatures, and I had to do it in a way that worked with my inspirations and interests. The moon is eternally mysterious, and has held different meaning for people from all around the world since the beginning of time. For myself, I was attracted to the mystery of the moon, and the transformations it endlessly appears to go under. The owl was the perfect animal for a creature of the night, and I felt (it) worked well with the phases of the moon. I was going for something bold, edgy and mysterious, and I did my best to achieve it.
D&D MTL: You’ve created murals in a variety of locations internationally. Were there any unique challenges that you encountered during this project at Flyjin?
Kevin Ledo: There were many challenges. To begin with, I had flown to Montreal from Guatemala for only two weeks to tackle the project, so there was a constant race against time. It was the biggest art installation I had ever done, and that was also a challenge. Putting together a team, showing them what to do and then making sure everything was going well, all while concentrating on the murals was very difficult at times. But all in all my team were absolutely amazing, and I’m so grateful that I had them to make it all possible.
D&D MTL: Can you share with D&D readers what projects are next on your list? Will you be working in Montreal or are you heading back out on the road?
Kevin Ledo: I’m back in Montreal now and don’t have any solid plans to hit the road again. I love travelling though, and I can’t imagine not continuing it in the future. Next on the list is wrapping my head around the fact that I’m back in Montreal, and then working on some more paintings, murals and art installation projects. I’ll be part of a group show at the end of the year at Yves Laroche Gallery, and there is a decent chance that I’ll be working on some projects with Cease Art and Station 16.