Staring at a wall on the side of the building is like looking at a blank canvas for artist Ilya Viryachev. Taking on mural painting in the last couple years, he talks about the work involved, what inspires him and how it brings the community together.
“I like the idea that one person can do such a big task. When you come to a 20-foot wall, you think, ‘Wow, this is going to be a lot of work,” says Viryachev, 24.
Viryachev paints murals on the side of building walls in Vancouver. He has painted six murals in the city so far.
Murals for the city
Viryachev says mural painting is similar to having an art show, but it’s one piece of work and it’s accessible to more people because it’s located outdoors.
“I always did sketching or doodling, but started taking it seriously in Grade 12 and ended up going into animation,” he says.
Viryachev feels lucky to have a 9–5 job that is related to what he has studied, and can apply to his current interest in mural painting.
“There are broad similarities [animation versus mural painting] including tone, colour, value, shape design, emotions and motions…working with visual images and telling stories: it’s coming through in [the] art,” says Viryachev.
Mural painting has both positive and negative elements.
“From the beginning, you know you’ll be working outside − which is great. On the other hand, being in Vancouver is challenging because it gets dark sooner in winter − and the rain,” says Viryachev.
The City of Vancouver has been very helpful and supportive, says Viryachev, in obtaining a permit for the artist to paint his murals.
“I see a wall I like, I approach the building owner or the City of Vancouver − the city is easier,” he says.
Spider-Man (Through the Cracks)
The 49-foot wide mural located between 3rd and 4th on Columbia Street was inspired by one of Viryachev’s friends.
“My friend is quite successful in the field of animation now and I wanted to speak about resilience, hard work and effort… (on the mural) the plants are growing no matter what, through the cracks,” he says.
Depending on the wall size (he didn’t have to use a ladder for Spider-Man) and the detail of the design, murals can take a couple months.
“When I make art for murals, I go for art that is appealing and brings a positive message to the viewer. I feel responsible, creating art in this public space, because it’s almost like I’m putting my art in someone’s face,” says Viryachev.
Although he works primarily on his own, Viryachev has collaborated with others. On his last mural, with Mount Pleasant BIA and the City of Vancouver, he was asked to involve the local community.
“I ended up teaching a youth group a quick Approach to Illustration course at the Mount Pleasant Community Center, and later the same youth joined me to paint the wall,” says Viryachev.
He says it was a great experience.
“Sharing my knowledge and passion for art is important to me. It was nice to revisit that feeling again and contribute to the community,” says Viryachev.
Inspiration and exploration
Viryachev is taking inspiration from his roots for an upcoming mural which will be influenced by Kazakhstan culture (traditional clothing and music). Originally from Almaty, Kazakhstan, he immigrated to Canada with his family when he was 14.
Viryachev, who speaks Russian with his family, says few people know about Kazakhstan. Their responses usually make him laugh.
“It’s either through the movie Borat or as a wrestling/boxing power because we do well in the Olympics,” he says.
Viryachev says he’s lucky to be in Canada where there are more opportunities for art than in Kazakhstan.
“I’ve liked that I’ve maintained my language and cultural roots, but I don’t think I have to represent a certain culture (Kazakhstan or Canadian) per say,” says Viryachev. “Maybe it’s a sign the world is heading in the right direction.”
For more information: www.ilyav.ca