montreal's gilles guay is a most unlikely defender of graffiti. The entrepreneur who has sold his concoction to eat up spray paint all across Canada believes authorities are too ready to obliterate the artistic expression of others.
"People are afraid of graffiti because they associate it with gangs," he says over the phone. "Graffiti is not by a gang, but a guy trying to express himself. The city would definitely be nicer without it, but to be totally against it would be an unfair statement against freedom of expression.
There are about 15 guys in Montreal (who do graffiti) that I would definitely call artists," says Guay, although he stresses that he doesn't agree with painting graffiti on churches or statues.
Six years ago, Guay lived in Los Angeles, where he discovered Graffiti Gone, a water-soluble, citrus-based, biodegradable product specifically designed to remove spray paint.
He brought it to Canada, where he now distributes the goop to more than 40 municipalities in Quebec alone (in addition to Paris, France, and other French-speaking countries).
In Montreal, Guay sells Graffiti Gone to the public transit (STCUM), both francophone and anglophone school boards, the city of Montreal and private cleaners.
A product of the Multi Paint Corporation based in Alhambra, California, outside L.A., Graffiti Gone is also distributed in Halifax, Calgary and Toronto. Multi Paint also makes Graffiti Block, a sister product that seals or blocks surfaces, repelling further graffiti.
As Ken Smith of North Toronto Paints in Vaughan discovered, Graffiti Gone has only been found ineffective in temperatures below 10 or above 30 degrees Celsius. If it's too cold it won't stick, and if it's too hot it will evaporate, he says.
Smith recently became the Toronto and southern Ontario dealer. He's stocked Graffiti Gone for only a few weeks, because the region has only recently warmed up, but in that short time Smith has sold Graffiti Gone to the TTC, the city of Toronto and Toronto Hydro.
In addition, Smith recently landed school boards from Toronto and Peel region's Catholic school boards as customers. "I like this because it's user-friendly and biodegradable. And it works," he says.
In Montreal, a Graffiti Cafe has opened, and the city has allocated 30 to 50 legal walls. In a recent study Guay conducted, a 200-per-cent increase in graffiti occurred within the 1-kilometre area around the walls.
"I think the solution will come through public seminars and (communication with the kids)," says Guay.
Legal walls don't yet exist in Toronto, says P.C. Joseph Smith, who runs 51 Division's graffiti eradication program.
Smith says he's unaware of Graffiti Gone's surface-cleansing power. He politely asks that the info be sent to 51 Division.