Pedestrian street art of Peter Gibson

Aena Cho

I first came know about the Canadian artist, Peter Gibson, aka ‘Roadworth’, from a photo that a friend of mine took during her trip to Montreal.  I only considered his work – simple symbols that just aims to surprise the viewers and add unanticipated fun to the spaces where it is drawn on.  However, after learning about street art from this week’s readings, I began wondering if the work, which looks nothing like sophisticated graffitis and murals of well-known contemporary street artists, can be also perceived as the ‘street art’ I have learned from the readings –  not just a new innovative genre of visual art but also a form of statement or even subversion, the act of “getting up” and contest for visibility (Irvine, 5) against traditional institutional art and sometimes even the regime of government and law.

Gibson, who is known as a “pedestrian street artist”, first began using the city of Montreal as his canvas in 2001.  Hoping to encourage the city to build more bike lanes, he began to paint bicycle symbols with stencils around the streets; mimicking those that are used to designate the city‘s official bike paths.  He has expanded his work to all the streets, sidewalks, and parking lots in the city; transforming the streets into “giant playgrounds”.   Some of the works include road lines with a plug drawn in at the end, a fish skeleton at a crosswalk, tight rope walkers drawn walking on shadows, and even gigantic shoe prints in the middle of the road.

Like many pop artists and street artists who have been influenced through his work, Gibson challenges the conventional notion on the nature, definition, or aesthetic of art – in a way that goes further from pop artists who often incorporate mundane objects into their works and other street artists who incorporate their works into public spaces.  Being placed in almost every location all over the city, his works can be seen virtually everywhere and anytime; they are accessible by everyone in the city.  Definitely, any form of art would not be more “public” than the “pedestrian art”.   Furthermore, as the humorous, open-ended and non-preachy work can be interpreted in many different ways such as on a political or comical level or everything in between that is entirely public in the nature: it is indeed art in public for the public.

Also, Gibson’s work “competes for visibility” which is one of the characteristics of street art as identified by Professor Irvine.   Particularly, it is somewhat parallel to “Ron English, Shepard Fairey, Banksy and many others [who] have made explicit subversions of advertising space” (Irvine, 22).  As Gibson asserts in many interviews, his extremely ubiquitous, public work is a statement against corporate monopoly on public spaces.  Like most other street art, it is also a kind of political or social activism which opposes the hypocrisy implicit in the notion that public space is democratic when in fact it is allowed more to corporations for use than it does to everyday citizens.

gibson     Gibson 2    Gibson 3

<Works cited>

1. Irvine, Mark. The Work on the Street: Street Art and Visual Culture“.The Handbook of Visual Culture, ed. Barry Sandywell and Ian Heywood. London/New York: Berg, 2012: 235-278.

2. Peter Gibson Street Art: ‘Roadsworth’ Series Turns Montreal Streets Into Giant Playgrounds . Huffpost Arts & Culture. April 17, 2013. <>.