Meet Montreal artists HoarKor

…also known as HRKR (or Hoar and Kor-who, individually), a duo involved in two big events this weekend.

Work by HoarKor

This weekend, the Under Pressure festival of hip hop culture celebrating graffiti, skateboarding, rap music and breakdance is celebrating 20 years since its first edition in 1996. Ste-Catherine Street will be closed to vehicle traffic between Ste-Elisabeth and Berger to make room for skate and bboy/bgirl demos, DJs and concerts, local vendors, and of course plenty of graffiti and street art going up throughout the Under Pressure zone right before your eyes.

Among the artists who will be creating works during the weekend is the two-person team HoarKor—made up of individual artists Hoar and Kor—who you may already know from their signature character Moosestache, plus other frequent elements of their work such as cats and brass knuckles. More recently, the team has been making a name for themselves with giant 3D letters built to spell out their tag HRKR in a larger-than-life format that demands attention. In preparation for Under Pressure, the duo have been working hard in the studio building letters to spell out the name of the festival, which will be on display over the course of the weekend in the Under Pressure zone.

Hoarkor letters
HoarKor at Mural Fest 2014

On the other side of town, you can also find larger-than-life HoarKor letters featured at the Van Horne Station (VHS) inaugural event taking place Saturday evening under the Rosemont viaduct near de Gaspé with muralists, DJs and food trucks.

We caught up with HoarKor in the lead-up to Under Pressure via email to give us a little insight into their work. Check out our interview with Hoar below and come say hello to the pair at Under Pressure this weekend!

Lisa Sproull: Can you tell me a bit about yourselves? How did you meet and start working together?
HoarKor: We are two guys that met about 5 years ago while working in the same restaurant as cooks while we were both attending Concordia University. I (HOAR) was just starting my bachelors and KOR was just finishing his. We clicked right away and it wasn’t long after meeting that we started going out pasting together. That lasted for about a year then we started to work on projects together. We realized quickly our individual strengths and common goals that we had so it made sense to us to join together. We can each do things on our own but together we can create monumental works much easier.

LS: You work across many different media, like painting, wheatpastes, stickers and sculpture (those giant letters!). Which are you devoting the most time to these days? Have your preferences changed or developed over time since you’ve been working together?
HK: We absolutely love creating art and we see all the different methods we use as tools in our tool box. We both started off as painters and that’s what we both studied in university. At Concordia I got really into printmaking and since graduating, we set up our studio as a screen printing studio. Pasting was at the time the easiest and most fun way for us to get stuff in the streets. The letter sculptures came from our mutual love of lettering and fonts, combined with our background in construction. We both really wanted to see massive letters that can stand on their own and take over spaces.

Lately we have been focusing a lot on murals and spray. We both had a background in graffiti but it wasn’t till recently that we started to do more. We are starting a huge 60 foot long mural in Rosemont just after the Under Pressure festival.

Our preferences haven’t changed much as we still love to go out pasting, but other projects have left us with limited time to do some things. I think what’s changed since we started working together is that we want to keep going bigger and bigger with every new project.

LS: I often recognize your work by a few running themes, such as animals (especially cats!), moustaches and brass knuckles. Can you tell me a little about why you come back to these things and what they mean to you?

Work by HoarKor showing the Moosestache character

HK: Some of the themes that keep coming up in our work are small personal jokes between us. We think it’s funny how there’s this bad/tough side in the graffiti world. We’re somewhat part of this world, but we’re far from being tough or “bad”. The brass knuckle for example, is kind of a symbol of toughness so we thought it fitting and funny. The cats are because we both love cats! The Moosetache character is a character I’ve been drawing for years, so he keeps popping up in our work. We love to have fun and laugh. Our art is not going to save the world or create change in it. We just want to laugh, have fun and hopefully make some other people smile.

LS: Lately you’ve been making these fantastic giant 3D painted letters. Though there are lots of artists in Montreal doing lettering, wheatpastes etc., I can’t think of anyone else doing something quite like these. Can you tell me a little about the process of making these and how you developed and perfected this stream of work? I’m imagining a lot of engineering goes into them to make sure they don’t tip over!
HK: The 3D letters we do have been getting us some good attention. It’s been great working on these projects. The process for creating these letters starts with our love for fonts. We have loads of fonts and letters that we’re waiting for the right project to pull them out. We draw a lot of letters and fonts and we usually know what font type we are gonna do for the next project based on our excitement and love of a particular font. Then we sit down and figure out the logistics for building. We both did a lot of construction in our teens and twenties, so it’s helped us a lot when creating these letters. Then we figure out the space and just how big we can go and how to build the letters safely without a possibility of them falling over onto someone. It’s funny now that most of the people that have worked with us know that if you tell us a maximum height, width or anything that we are gonna go to the max. Sometimes that almost gets us in trouble! Laughs.

LS: You’re working on 3D letters for Under Pressure’s 20th anniversary edition. Do you have any reflections on your experiences with Under Pressure over the years?
HK: Under Pressure and Fresh Paint gallery have been working with us since we started and they have represented us for the past 3 years. I’ve been going to the Under Pressure festival since my 20’s and most of the graffiti writers that have been involved in the 20 years that it’s been around are artists that we look up to a respect very much. I think I’ve known Sterling Downey since I was about 19, 20 years old. Writers like FLOW, TIMER, DYSKE  and SEAZ are like godfathers to me. I’ve meet so many incredible artists going to this festival and seen some amazing talent. Fresh Paint and Under Pressure are our representation and the guys who’ve had our backs when we were barely known. They have our loyalty and respect. ■