PONY Montreal

Photos by Mr. Wavvy

Montreal artist Pony believes that magic exists

Our March issue cover story about the local artist and TV host.

I enter Pony’s spacious Old Montreal loft and am greeted by Shelly, an aging but very friendly greyhound. The two have just returned from a weekend in the Laurentians, where Pony has recently purchased a cottage. It’s an important milestone for the young artist, one that coincides with her new television series Résiste!, which debuted on TV5 last month. The series finds her globetrotting to important artistic cities around the world.

“I’m a curious person, I believe that magic exists. I like to find the beauty in stuff,” she explains. “Life can be so fucking tough. We’re born in a weird era. It feels like it’s the end of the world since we’re young.” The Laurentians have provided a much-needed escape for the artist who loves to explore.

cult mtl march 2021 issue magazine cover pony montreal
Pony on the cover of Cult MTL March 2021

Pony, born Gabrielle Laïla Tittley, was born in Quebec City but lived quite the nomadic lifestyle. She bounced around from Newfoundland to Outaouais and Buckingham, Quebec in her formative years before finally moving to Montreal. She gained a steady following over the past half decade with her artwork, which is just as colourful and hilarious as it is rich in substance. Pony explores topics such as drugs, existentialism and mental health through accessible figures. Rappers, philosophers and Quebec celebrities are among some of her most prominent subjects.

“They’re poets,” she says of hip hop artists. “Often, they’re comedians, they’re hilarious! This is why I love rap. One of the first things I loved about rap was the humour, how you can take something so deep and make a joke in the line after. Things don’t always need to be so dark.”

Tittley herself experienced a dark childhood and took to heart finding the humour in her experience.

“I think it’s a survival mechanism to just try and find hope.,” she explains. “I am programmed to feel that way, I think it’s because of when I was younger at home. This situation made me an optimist, as a survival mechanism. You’re dropped into a world that’s on fire, you’re going to try and find a way to put the fire out, or try and see if there’s any flowers that aren’t burned out.”

Résiste! is an extension of Tittley’s artistic ethos. The first five episodes find Pony exploring cultural niches in New Orleans, London, Detroit, Atlanta and back home in Montreal.

“At its core, the idea of Résiste! is us going to broken places — politically, socially, environmentally. We wanted to go to important cities who went through that process. That was the basis. What are these interesting places that have gone through important historical moments?”

She treats hosting as an art form as much as she does her prints or clothing. Résiste! is not The Pony Show, it’s Pony using her platform to help important voices in each city. The hometown episode is a testament to Pony’s thoughtful approach to the show. She shines a light on artists whose messages have meaning, drawing attention to movements like Black Lives Matter and Indigenous rights.

“I think Montreal is an amazingly cultural place. It’s not represented that way in most media. Of course, if we have this show that we believe in, we need to portray our city. We’re not going to go with everyone that we’re used to seeing. What these people are doing is fucking amazing.”

While things are up in the air for when filming could restart, Résiste! still has five episodes to shoot for this season.

“There are other places that we wanted to go but we’re blocked because of corona. They were going to do France, Spain, Korea, Turkey — all the best! I’m crossing my fingers for season 2 but we still have five shows to do for this season. Because of coronavirus, we’re probably going to do them in Canada.”

Pony is keeping her fingers crossed for a season two as well. “I just want it to continue forever! Even if we only did Montreal, there could be like, 10 other episodes! This show is so important, I just want to become better at it. It’s a dream job.”

Until then, she will continue to explore the arts and live life with a glass half full. She even hinted at an animated project in the pipeline. “Someone recently approached me for that,” she shares about a potential cartoon down the line. “I want to do movies. I feel like a lot of artists are like that, they have ideas. Maybe you’re only a little bit good at drawing but the point is to express your idea. I feel like, for me, illustration is one way, painting is one way, writing shitty rap songs is one way. I’m excited to learn about all of the mediums.

“I think that the meaning of life is to better yourself but to help better others as well,” she adds. “This is where I’m at in life. The more we know about ourselves, the more we could help others. If we do all of that, maybe someone will put out the fire!” ■

This feature originally appeared in the March 2021 issue of Cult MTL. For more about Pony and to purchase her apparel, please visit her website.

For more Montreal arts coverage, please visit the Arts & Life section.