One of Canada’s rising stars in the art world paints her latest work on a garage wall in London, Ont.

The latest mural by one of Canada’s hottest up and coming artists is found across the back wall of a London, Ont. auto body shop in the city’s Old East Village. 

It was painted by Pakistani-Canadian artist Maria Qamar — known as Hatecopy to her 185,000 Instagram followers — and showcases her trademark South Asian-focused pop art.

Her work has been featured around the world in places like the Richard Taittinger Gallery in New York and the Oxo Tower Wharf in London, England. Now, a new piece of public work is there for all to see at the intersection of Hamilton Road and Adelaide Street.

“What we’re about is connecting these superstars with projects that they do for free, or for barter, because they believe in it,” said graffiti artist Ken Galloway, who spearheads the Wet Paint Initiative which brought Qamar to the city.

Murals like the one Qamar painted could cost upwards of $100,000 to commission, especially when such big names in the art world are involved, Galloway said.

Artist Maria Qamar in studio
Maria Qamar, who goes by Hatecopy, has had her work displayed across North American and Europe. (Submitted by Maria Qamar)

But businesses that Galloway approaches who agree to turn a part of their building into a canvas don’t have to pay, but they are expected to give the artists complete creative freedom.

“I give her context on what’s going on in London and we aligned on the objectives but the design is entirely her own. Of course I helped her paint this one because it’s a pretty big mural,” Galloway said. 

The initiative began in 2021 and aims to change the public perception of graffiti as a legitimate art form that brightens cityscapes. There are currently seven eye-catching murals painted around OEV, which Galloway hopes will inspire graffiti artists to see a future in their craft. 

spray paint
Graffiti artist and curator of the Wet Paint Initiative Ken Galloway works on the finishing touches for the “Welcome Home” mural behind Stew Kraft’s Service Centre on Hamilton Road. (Mike Lacasse/CBC News)

“They don’t have to just sharpen their skills on trains like I did and worry about the police chasing them while they’re chasing their dreams,” he said.

Projects across Old East Village

The newest mural by Qamar was welcomed by the garage owner who sees it as a way to make the neighbourhood more attractive.

“Ken asked if he could put it up and I think it looks great. It adds to the neighbourhood,” said Mark Kraft, one of the proprietors of the service centre. He hopes an artist will do the front of his shop to really spruce up the area. 

bird and worm graffiti mural.
The Rise and Shine mural on the side of Back to the Fuchsia antiques shop at 1034 Dundas Street. It was done by street artist Emmie Tsumura. Proprietor Mary Hinton said she sought out the Wet Paint Initiative to add some colour to her shop. (Mike Lacasse/CBC News)

Other business owners who have lent their wall space agree it has changed the way people interact in the area. 

“A lot of people come and take pictures of all our beautiful art in the Old East Village. So it is humbling,” said Roxanne Talbot who has a painting done by street artist Kayla Buium on the side of her Foxy Roxy at Maymo’s Fry restaurant on Elizabeth Street.

maymo mural
The mural beside Foxy Roxy at Maymo’s Fry on Elizabeth Street was done by street artist Kayla Buium. Proprietor Roxanne Talbot says it’s very humbling to have a representation of her as a little girl seeing herself today. (Mike Lacasse/CBC News)

Mary Hinton, who runs the antique store Back to the Fuchsia, had her outside wall painted by artist Emmie Tsumura. She initially tracked Galloway down when she heard he was looking for businesses to volunteer their walls to artists.

“It’s a great addition to the cityscape. We still have people taking pictures in front of it, sort of documenting their visit,” Hinton said.

man in front of building
Mark Kraft is a co-owner of Stew Kraft’s Service Centre where the mural is located. (Mike Lacasse/CBC News)

Galloway said he has plans for three more walls to be painted in OEV before the end of the year. He would not say who the artists would be but encouraged any business owner with suitable wall space to get in touch. 

“We want to be in this neighborhood and in this city long term and we’re building relationships with some of the the best people here,” Galloway said.

CBC News reached out to Maria Qamar but did not receive a response in time for publication.

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