“Graff writer, designer and artist, Alex Scaner was a monster on the graffiti scene. His multi- disciplinary approach, his exploration of different mediums, his relentless search for bigger and better spots, redefined the limits of contemporary graffiti. Originally from the South Shore of Montreal, Scaner started writing his name all over the streets of the big city at the age of 15. His drive and determination made him a master of all the aspects of writing graffiti which gave him his international notoriety.
In his work on canvas, Scan explored his different hand styles through abstraction and use of funky.”
Who was Alex Scaner? The legendary Quebec artist whose design features on our latest Limited Edition is portrayed by his nearest and dearest today in MTN World
By all accounts, the late Montreal writer Alex Scaner was a hardcore bomber, talented artist and astute businessman. He applied the same intense energy and warm humor to each of his interests, inspiring and pushing his friends every step of the way.
Coinciding with the launch of his posthumous MTN Limited Edition Can, we’ve gathered anecdotes from his wife Karine as well as members of his crews and his business partner.
This piece originally appeared in the first issue of Tramontana Magazine in 2018.
MY SAMURAI by Karine Rogers
‘I was recently contacted to write an article about Scaner. Not because I’m an expert in graffiti, but because I’m his wife (hello!). For me, Scaner is Alex. And he’s the most beautiful person in the world! I would’ve loved to form a family with him but he left us too early, at 36 years old. He’s the man who, despite the illness, managed to make me laugh, literally until the last moment. And it wore me out!
‘You are perfect for me.’ That’s what was engraved in his engagement ring. Yes, I was the one who ordered it! After all, we’re living in the 21st century. Anyway, even if he’d wanted to kneel to propose, he couldn’t because at that time, Alex was in a wheelchair, cause of a ‘little night excursion’ in Spain, where he broke both feet and his wrist. Yes, that is possible! He was obsessed with emptying cans…
Alex was all about that! There was always an impossible story. He was one of those types who pulled the elastic until it broke in his face, or worse, until it snapped in someone else’s! But he was so charming that someone always ended up helping him repair whatever he had broken. It is impossible to think of him without a half smile on his face.
I’m going to tell you the truth: when Alex started drawing and painting graffiti, he was far from good! He wasn’t very skilled at all, but it didn’t matter. He was stubborn, even obsessive. Alex didn’t listen to anyone: for him, rules were made to be broken. He wanted to explore, push things to the limit, and triumph. And he achieved it. As his friend Axe would say: ‘If there were a graffiti Olympics, he would’ve been the captain of Montreal’. Not only because of his versatility and his flamboyant style, but because he was both reckless and tenacious; exhausting but contagious. At his side, the world had another flavor, the barriers fell. He was the boss!
Over the years, Scaner built a reputation in art galleries. He created his own brand which combined his training in design with his passion for graffiti. In Montreal, Scaner is in all our streets, but also in our stores. His bold artistic interventions allow these places to stand out and make our city shine. ‘Do what you love and the rest will follow,’ he used to say. Life is too short to be afraid. It was a kind of instinct, of intuition. He listened to the little voice inside that everyone else tries to oppress.
What many people don’t know is that this lust for life was also reflected in his private reality, his disease. Alex fought against a very rare cancer for more than eight years. Hospital, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and fittingly, even scanners. The doctors attempted to persuade him to reduce his activity several times. Nice try!
In recent years, Alex went through surgery more than 11 times. One time in hospital, for our amusement, he did an impression of an ex-roommate suffering from testicular pain. It was hilarious! He had just left the operating theater and all he cared about was making us laugh. He was a warrior.
Scaner was lucky enough to have been surrounded by people as vibrant as him. He shared his madness and creativity with a community that loved him unconditionally. His family, his friends and his team never stopped caring for him and paying him respect. If everyone who loved him could’ve given him years of their own life, he would have lived forever.
Facing death at the age of 36, when life opens before you, with so many projects, ambitions, and dreams, surrounded by love and passion, is almost unthinkable. Scaner, once again, showed us the way, made us understand that the only limits that exist are those that we make for ourselves. Alex could silence his ego to understand what was really important: living in the present and sharing it with those he loved. He had the courage to put his heart and soul into everything he did. He had fun in life, that’s what made him so vital and authentic. He was magic. His smile, his big teeth and the light in his eyes will be etched in my heart forever. Together, we built a stronger love than I ever thought possible. A love that transcends time and space. People sometimes ask me why I wanted to marry a man who had cancer. They definitely didn’t know Alex!
Now, when I hear a little voice inside, I know it’s him I’m listening to. Our love, our relationship, will continue to grow and make me smile. Scaner has passed away, but his light will continue to shine on us and on future generations. Legends never die.‘
‘So much knowledge and diverse interests, far beyond our common passion for writing, Alex always encouraged me to find my peace, my happiness, pushing me to paint more, to quit my shitty job. He was able to tread the line between his illegal and professional careers with total finesse. We took him to the trains, he would go do a trackside right after, get some sleep and go quote a five-figure contract that same day. Hard work pays off, and he worked harder than most. If ever in doubt of making a decision, I can always relate to his mind state. If he was here, he’d definitely say, ‘Just do it, one more, let me do one last throw up!’
Thanks for being an inspiration to so many of us, you’ve been a true friend and mentor to me.’
‘Painting with him made you start believing that the Graffiti God was watching us.’-Stare
‘My memories of Alex go back to when we were still in high school together. Graffiti created a bond between a bunch of mischievous kids that would eventually develop into much more than just a crew of writers. Later on, we were fortunate enough to live together as a crew under the same roof. This was the most creative period in my life. We sketched, painted, made movies and recorded music. Yes, Alex was as gifted in rhyme as he was in paint. We fed off of each other’s talents and dabbled in all forms of art.
He followed his dreams and persevered through illness and injury. His attitude, as irritating sometimes as it was admirable, was to do whatever it took to attain his goals. Whether it was in graffiti or civilian life, he always pushed forward.
I will forever think of him as the man that took all of us with him as far as he could on this Earth. He taught me about grief and happiness. He showed me how to handle life’s toughest ordeals. His strength will inspire me eternally. His dedication to all forms of creativity was contagious. I am very fortunate to count him not only as a friend but as a brother and mentor as well.’
‘I luckily met this Superhuman through the love of street writing. At a time both of our crews were slowing down a bit, we united and created KG crew: Keep Going, or Kebec Gold. We shared the same eagerness to get up in our city. A real doer, Scan was the guy you wanted on your side to achieve impossible things.
Real, obsessive and passionate. He always wanted more and more and truly mastered the art of balancing the fine line of what you can and can’t do. Pushing the limits, everything was possible. Painting with him made you start believing that the Graffiti God was watching us. What I’ll miss the most about him is the ways he knew how to make you remember the kid you used to be and keep this innocent energy alive.
He always wanted to paint his name bigger and bolder than others, but at the same time always taking care of the graff scene. I remember him settle other people’s beefs to keep peace in our circle. Even until his last days, he cherished the graff community and generously took time to fix issues for us before he left. Right to the end, he was dropping enormous tags on street corners. What a boss!
Alex elevated the whole meaning of ‘Keep Going’ further than graffiti, it became a state of mind. I’m more than amazed to have witnessed him, so positive in his condition and always finding a crazy funky way to get things done. I’ve learned a lot from him.
He left us with a lesson of never-ending courage and a super fresh style-writing legacy that can influence generations and generations. It’s now our time to honor him!’
‘Even though the man ‘King Scan’ has passed, I will always admire his work and think about all the great moments we cherished building our empire. I had the honor of working with him on many of my projects. We built a mutual understanding of a certain type of aesthetic and applied it to every project I was involved with. From styling some of my Empire stores to the design of my house to the camouflage paint on my Ferrari. We just made shit happen. And making shit happen is what it’s all about. I’ve met many who talk the talk, but not many who deliver the goods. Scan was the delivery man! No matter what the size, the complexity or the deadline, he made it work. Our relationship grew very quickly, and throughout the many years we worked together. He became a good friend and someone I looked up to.
Alex will forever be an inspiration to the people who had the chance to meet him.’
‘I had the privilege of spending a lot of time with Scan in the last few years. We worked together on all sorts of commercial projects and ended up sharing a studio. Every time the phone rang I knew we were gonna have some fun at the next gig. It usually implied him being late, and what he called a vortex: something that wouldn’t go according to plan and we had to work all night to fix.
He told me about his situation with cancer from the start, but never complained. You have to understand that Scan would be on the worksite straight from the hospital after surgery and you couldn’t tell him anything to change his mind. I feel blessed to have bumped into him the night everything started for us, and to call him a friend.
Watching Alex grow and evolve into what I consider the best human being possible is something I’ll cherish all my life.’
‘Because no matter if it’s his artwork hanging on my wall saying ‘Hi’ to me every morning, or the countless stories about him shared between his friends, or the squirrel who found its way to Kay in the days after. I’m reminded about Alex and his adventures every day.’ -Soten
‘Spending time with Alex was always a trip. Never on time and always rushing. Alex forgetting something on our way to paint was a daily occurrence. We always had to turn around and go back for what he forgot. One time when Alex came to visit me in New York I gave him a warning: ‘Today we are not going back. Make sure you have everything.’ He was like, ‘Yeah yeah, come on bro, I’m not that bad.’ So we leave my house. Drive to the gas station. Get our coconut waters and coffee and when we get in the car he starts laughing. And I look over and say, ‘I knew it. What did you forget?’ And he just looks at me and smiles. Something about his laugh and smile was just so real. You couldn’t even get mad. And of course, we went back. That smile is something I’ll never forget.
Those days will never be forgotten.’
‘Last time I talked with Alex was during a visit to Montreal with Pete and Brian, just a week before he would pass. We all knew that the time was close and just before we had to leave he took time out to talk privately with each one of us. The last thing Alex said was, ‘This is not the end, we will meet again.’ At that time I didn’t totally understand the meaning of these words, but I do today. Because no matter if it’s his artwork hanging on my wall saying ‘Hi’ to me every morning, or the countless stories about him shared between his friends, or the squirrel who found its way to Kay in the days after. I’m reminded about Alex and his adventures every day.’
‘Last September, a true king died. One of the few who mark a before and after, who are not afraid of making mistakes, breaking rules, having fun and loving what they do. Who listen, learn and teach. Who pull the cart without caring about their share of the load. In short, one of the few who appear on Earth every now and then to shine like a star.
From the second we met, we knew that our relationship was going to be incredible. As if by magic, we already felt like friends without having met each other, both cut from the same cloth.
It took just over three weeks of coexistence, one of them in Roskilde (Denmark) and the rest in and around Barcelona, to consolidate our friendship. I admired his way of getting excited about everything that surrounded him, of giving importance to the things that really deserve it and always having a smile for everyone.
Thanks to Alex, I met the rest of the Fours and became part of the family. We could say that he was the one who nominated me. Alex was the bridge and the glue for all of us. He managed to create the same magical effect with the rest of the group: strangers that seem to have known each other for ever.
Later we learned about his physical condition and the whole group decided to go to Montreal to be with him and support him. That meeting was called ‘Scan You Rock,’ prepared by his wife and friends, and an event that will remain forever in our memory.
In August of 2017 I returned to Montreal to spend a few days with Alex and Kay and ended up getting involved in a project run by Scan in which several writers participated. It was a particularly intense time, somehow I knew that it would probably be the last time we could paint and be together, we both knew it and tried to spend as much time together as possible, staying up late and getting up early the next day. His physical condition had deteriorated a lot since we’d last seen each other, although mentally he was still the same as always: a teenager ready to conquer the world.
Thank you, Alex, for letting me get to know you so well and witness your greatness, for having the chance to bare our true souls, for the admiration and mutual appreciation, for the legacy that you left us, not only as an artist but also as a person, for those long nocturnal gatherings talking about the most banal and the deepest things (I wish there had been more), and for your way of seeing and understanding things.’
‘Alex was a multi-faced individual. One of his sides was that of a big kid, up for getting into mischief and mayhem. I’ll always remember the last opportunity we had to paint at Roskilde: it rained constantly and we were sodden. We painted two or three pieces, running in the rain, stuck in the mud. I thought that I’d already painted enough, so I decided to change clothes. When I got back, Alex, frantic and completely covered in silver, stopped me and said: ‘Maria, there is still time to paint another piece!’. And of course, I did. His enthusiasm was contagious.’
You can download the PDF of this article and photos as well as the rest of the content from Tramontana Magazine 1 and 2 right here.