Montreal artist Junko is making waves in Vancouver
Underneath an office tower in downtown Vancouver, two creatures spring from the sidewalk. The futuristic insect-like sculptures are made from old car parts, scrap metal and discarded shoes.
The art installation, called “Habitat”, was created by a mysterious street artist named Junko.
Habitat, visible in Vancouver’s business district, was created by Montreal artist Junko. (CTV News, Gary Barndt)Taking trash and turning it into larger than life pieces is something the Montreal-based artist has been doing since 2020.
Their work, often inspired by animals and insects, flourished not only in Quebec and British Columbia, but also in Ontario.
One of Junko’s art installations exhibited in Montreal. (Courtesy of JUNKO)While the creations are put forward in public places, Junko prefers to remain anonymous. During an encounter with CTV News at a Metro Vancouver park, they wore a camouflage hoodie, gray cargo pants and black gloves.
They also wore sunglasses and a dark scarf that covered most of their face. Their secrecy is intentional, as Junko wants their art to speak for itself.
“I like to share my work in public, but I like to leave the work open to interpretation,” the artist said.
Junko, the anonymous street performer, spotted in Vancouver’s Strathcona Park during an interview with CTV National News. (CTV News, Melanie Nagy)Junko’s sculptures are a form of street art, which aims to be visual, accessible, inclusive and stimulating. The British Journal of Aesthetics describes the genre as “neither officially sanctioned public art nor institutionally tolerated”.
While Junko has long been drawn to art, beginning by drawing dinosaurs as a child, they admit that the “culture of street art” and its “element of mystery” is a source of inspiration.
Before starting a project, Junko scours the alleys, parks and dumps in search of reusable materials. The artists’ goal is to recycle and reuse the things that most people throw away.
“I’ve always loved exploring my surroundings and collecting the things I find,” they said. “So using waste makes sense to me.”
They add that as they walk around different cities, they see the amount of trash piling up, and it’s “a no-brainer to use some of it to create art.”
Junko says they have experience building sustainably, which means building with renewable and recyclable resources.
“This work is the result of applying that experience to my artistic practice.”
A recent example of Junko’s art can be seen hanging from an overpass in East Vancouver. Hanging from the cement is a giant black spider made from discarded objects such as windshield wipers.
An artist named Junko surprises Vancouver commuters with a new spider-like installment along the Millennium Line. (Instagram)Since the unusual sculpture appeared in mid-March, it has generated a lot of buzz in the community. Dozens of people pass through the area every day, many of whom stop just to take a look at the facility, which Junko named “Phobia.”
However, not everyone is a fan of the play. Shortly after his appearance, city officials said they received complaints that some Vancouver commuters were fleeing.
In response, the artwork was deemed unauthorized and it was decided to have it removed.
“There are tons of people talking, that’s the whole point of public art. The problem is that they haven’t gone through the city’s public art process,” Vancouver City Councilor Peter Meiszner said. “One of the issues with its location is that it sits above an active railway line, so there are some concerns there.”
Asked about the controversy, Junko said, “I think it’s a shame, because there are a lot of people who really like the artworks to be there and it doesn’t hurt anyone.” The artist also reiterated that it is made entirely from reused materials collected in Vancouver, which they say highlights the importance of reducing waste.
As part of its vision, Vancouver has committed to being a zero waste community by 2040.
After their work was commissioned, Junko took to their Instagram page, calling on followers to flood the city with positive comments in an effort to “save Spidey”.
With the art’s future in limbo, Meiszner says it’s highly unlikely he can stay where he is. The staff are asked to work with the artist to find a new home for the controversial arachnid.
If, in the end, the spider is crushed, Junko says they will move on to their next creation, as nothing will stop them from pursuing their passion. So, keep your eyes peeled, because you never know where Junko’s street art will pop up next.
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