Kevin Ledo – November 15th, 1978 – lives and works in Montreal, Canada. Ledo finished his studies of Illustration and Design at Dawson College in 1999, and since then his artistic practice has crossed back and forth through the boundaries of mural, street art, fine art, and art installation, focusing on the human form interlaced with geometric abstraction. Ledo’s realistic figures merge with a graphic display of orbs, halos, and vector lines, suspended in a minimalistic environment, experiencing moments of contemplation, intimacy, joy and wonderment.
Ledo grew up in a mix of urban and ethnic cultures in Montreal, raised by Portuguese parents from the Azores Islands. While art and painting have always been part of his life, his artistic practice officially started in 2005. Firmly grounded in classical painting techniques and materials while plugged into contemporary perspectives, Ledo also brings his elegant, often stylized approach of realism to walls, both indoor and outdoor; using everything from oil and acrylic paint, to spray paint, and gold leaf.
Ledo’s public murals are often celebrations of people and diversity and aim to relate to the communities they are found in. His work has given him the opportunity to fulfill another passion, which is to travel around the world and learn from other cultures. He had the chance to live in other countries such as Taiwan, Costa Rica, Guatemala and China.
He has participated in several mural festivals and public art initiatives in Canada and around the world, such as MURAL in Montreal, PangeaSeed Sea Walls in Toronto, FIAP in Cancún, AptART in Jordan and Lebanon, The Raw Project in Miami and Denver, and recently at Street Prints in Christchurch and Mount Maunganui, New Zealand; among others.
SAUS was able to send Kevin a few questions, and below is how it went down:
Hi Kevin, thanks for participating in SAUS’s Interview Series. For anyone that might not be familiar with your work, tell us a little about yourself.
Hello! I’m an artist Montreal, Canada. I’m a muralist and fine artist, and have been at it for quite some time. I mostly paint people in iconographic compositions, interlaced with geometric shapes and forms. Over past few years I have been fortunate enough to travel and paint murals in many places in the world.
How old were you when you first became interested in art? When did you realize that you wanted to become a full-time artist?
I’ve always been interested in drawing and painting. As a young child I was drawing Garfield and Ninja Turtles, then Megadeth, Iron Maiden and Metallica cover art. I began painting around that time too. At about 12 years old I was painting Bob Ross style landscapes. But I decided to take on art as a full time gig back in 2005. It only really became full time after a few years of trials and tribulations. At that time I was only focused on fine art, but then about 5 years ago I stumbled into mural painting while traveling through Central America. These days I devote about half my time to painting murals, and half the time to my studio work.
There’s something powerful about public murals and street art, what draws or inspires you to do this work?
At first I really fell in love with the immediacy and time constraints, as well as the problem solving of different wall dimension and surfaces. As I continued I really loved how the completed murals resonated with other people, and I found it to be a powerful tool to connect with people and ideas. I love traveling, meeting people, and finding ideas to portray in my work that resonate with the locals.
Are there any mediums you prefer to paint with? I.e. oils vs. acrylics or mixed media? Do you integrate any elements of graphic design into your work?
I usually choose exterior wall paint to work with, roller and brushes, but at times I use spray paint when the situations calls for it. Graphic design has been a big element in my work, although I strive to bring it down to the basics as much as possible.
When someone looks at your work, what do you hope they’ll feel or say?
I hope that they feel something or that it triggers a thought process, a moment of reflection.
Are there any artists you’re interested in collaborating with?
There are loads of artists that I really appreciate, but working together is a different story. I’d want to not only be intrigued by their work, but also get along well with someone before working with them. I would work with Fin Dac or Paola Delfin again, but I don’t have anyone else in mind at the moment.
Are there any organizations- local, domestic or international that coordinate/curate mural-project festivals that you’d like to paint for?
There are many, so long as they are well organized, I’d love to be invited!
Last summer you were invited to take part in aptART’s “Paint Outside the lines” project in Beirut. Could you tell us what was your experience like painting in Beirut and what did you learn from it?
It was a great experience that was really touching. It was the 3rd time I work with aptART. The first was in Jordan, and the second in the USA. This time around in Beirut I painted “Facing the Future,” depicting a young Lebanese girl peering into the distance, on a wall that still bore the wounds of the war. The wall was riddled with bullet holes, and the community was really touched that we were taking this symbol of a tragic time, and making something beautiful and meaningful with it. We asked the local children to write down what their wish for the future was, and then they painted their words into the mural. The wall now stands, not only as a memory of the past war, but with a uplifting sentiment, and the hopes and dreams of the local children. People really just wish to live in peace, which is something that the locals expressed to me numerous times.
At 2017’s Art Basel Miami, SAUS attended a panel in Wynwood Walls featuring a number of renowned street-artists including Martha Cooper. The topic “Selling Out” came up, which, is arguably one of the worst insults that can be lobbed at an artist. It was unanimously agreed that this is an outdated term, and creatives can maintain moral ground partnering with large entities. Do you agree/disagree and why?
Well as with everything, it’s never just black or white. As a youth I would easily point the finger at artists who were selling out. However with time, I realized that things are far more complex than I previously thought. I may feel that some artists have sold out, but I am far more open minded and try to consider different points of view before making that judgment. I am hesitant to work with big entities unless it lines up with my sensibilities and values. For me there has to be a give and take. If there is a progressive agenda, which promotes sustainability, equality, diversity or goodwill, I am far more likely to jump on board.
Of all the projects that you were involved in last year, which project was the most rewarding for you? And why?
That is a difficult question. Some were rewarding in some ways while others were rewarding in others. Definitely my Leonard Cohen mural was the biggest challenge ever, and it is something that I’m proud of, but other things like working and meeting the children and community in Beirut and Denver had their own rewards. Painting in New Zealand was very meaningful and then visiting the countryside afterwards was epic. I like having different experiences and this is why I love doing what I’m doing.
Tell us something about you that would surprise our readers?
In the mid 90s I was a skateboarding, phat pants and beaded necklace wearing raver. In 2002 I became an English teacher, and lived in Taiwan for two years. That is where I dreamt of becoming a full time artist. “Oh the places you will go!”
What can we expect to see in the near future from you? Any plans for a group or solo show?
I’m actually curating a group show, opening on May 12th at the Go Gallery in Amsterdam! The show is called An Impeccable Bunch, and will consist of the work from some killer artists from North America and Europe. I’m also presently in discussion about a solo show in a years time. Besides that, if all goes well, I’ll be popping into different places, painting murals all year long.
Any words of advice for aspiring new artists?
Failing is a huge part of progressing. Be versatile. My mantra for years has been: Persistence, Patience, and Perseverance. If this is what you want to do with your life, it’s settled then, make it happen.
Thank you Kevin for your time. I was a pleasure hanging out with you in Miami last December, and hopefully our paths will cross again in the near future.