By Maureen McEwan
Daniel Martelock’s latest public artwork is easy to spot.
The painting adorning the side of the Parkdale Park fieldhouse is bright blue and yellow, with a recognizable flag.
“People in our community are from Ukraine and they are probably going through [a] difficult time right now with family there and what not,” Martelock said. “I was trying to find a way to show support visually for them.”
“Nobody here wants war. Nobody here likes war. Nobody likes war anywhere,” he added. “And I know most Canadians are very against what’s going on there right now so I wanted to express myself in that way and just show them that the community does care.”
Following Russia’s invasion in late February, Martelock reached out to the Wellington West Business Improvement Area (BIA) with an idea for a public artwork. The BIA agreed to the collaboration, providing the canvas, and, after a week of hard work, Martelock’s piece Swhile With Ukraine was created.
At first, the Hintonburg artist was going to paint a simple flag but the BIA suggested that he add his own touch.
“They came up with the idea of doing it but maybe adding my own art to it, something a little bit more than a Ukrainian flag,” he said.
“I paint ‘bird army’ a lot—it’s a bird with an army helmet,” he added. “Basically, it represents the strength and agility of birds, how they stick together as a group. Whenever you see smaller birds, they always hang out together in groups, and they help each other and they work with each other in order to survive.”
Martelock decided to take the bird army element from his other works and include it: the featured bird wears a helmet with the Ukraine emblem.
“Like a bird community, we’re here to help; we’re here to stick together; we’re here to somehow unify,” he said.
The other main element of the piece is a sunflower. Martelock has been using flowers in his work recently so he decided to include one alongside the bird. The nature elements help signify strength and sustainability, he said, making a “perfect little combo” with the flag.
The sunflower and different birds are also meaningful symbols in Ukraine.
“I [needed] to make it simple and I [wanted] it to be more profound, more eye-catching—something that people look at and just get,” he said.
Martelock has collaborated with the BIA for several years on projects around the neighbourhood, like the mural wall in Parkdale Park.
As a full-time artist, he creates different works and curates shows and spaces, including the art at Beyond the Pale Brewing Company.
This spring, the local brewing company is bringing back its annual skateboard deck art show and auction “All Hands On Deck,” which Martelock co-organizes.
The 2022 show runs throughout May—with the auction taking place in the second half of the month—and will be fundraising for Ukraine.
Visit Beyond the Pale’s website (btpshop.ca) or social media, or Daniel Martelock’s social media, to learn more.