The Past, a 2014 mural from Shalak Attack’s Frozen Memories series in Toronto (Photo credit: Shalak Attack/submitted)

Topics: Ethical Living, September 2021 | Culture

Shalak Attack sees her murals as a ‘more democratic way of using art’

The Chilean-Canadian artist says her favourite thing about painting urban murals is the spontaneity and freedom


One of a handful of female mural artists in the country, Shalak Attack isn’t shy about her work. The Chilean-Canadian muralist uses bright, bold colours, incorporating nature and faces from a variety of cultures. “Some people will identify with [these murals] and will feel visually represented,” she says.

Shalak Attack painted this mural in 2017 for Collective Arts Brewing in Hamilton, Ont.
This 2015 mural sits in the alley by Toronto’s Lula Lounge music venue.

Shalak Attack’s parents immigrated to Canada in the late 1970s, when Chile was ruled by a harsh military dictatorship. “Their views and beliefs of equality, justice and democracy were being trampled in Chile,” she says.

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She studied art at Concordia University, but after travelling around South America — specifically Brazil, where street art is celebrated — she started experimenting with muralism. “It’s a more democratic way of using art,” she says, “because it’s for everybody.”

A piece in Bristol, U.K., created in 2016 with support from the People’s Republic of Stokes Croft.
Shalak Attack says murals are a more democratic way of art because it’s for everybody.

She now lives in Toronto with her husband, Bruno Smoky, who is also a street artist. Her favourite thing about painting urban murals is the spontaneity and freedom. “People are watching, and that energy is so fresh. In the studio, you have more of a controlled laboratory. But in the streets, it’s more of a performance. It just makes you want to do the best and have fun.”

Amy van den Berg is a writer based in northern Ontario. 

This article first appeared in Broadview’s September 2021 issue with the title “The lens.”

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