the end of a mural

A mural that dominated the downtown area of Winnipeg where I live for years and now it is gone along with the hotel on which it had been painted.

Location: E side bet. Portage & Graham; South Face
Occupant: St. Regis Hotel
Artist(s): Charlie Johnston (C5 Artworks)
Year: 2003
Painters: Sarah Johnston

Charlie Johnston: "It was a big project and seemed to go on forever. I had done big projects before but it's bigger than Athletes Wear by about 600 square feet; plus it's a not all one flat surface; that was one of the hard parts. The owner of the hotel, Gil Gauthier, approached me about changing the look of the hotel. He loved the Murals. We spent a lot of time and I went through about three different designs before we came to this one. He wanted something with historical nostalgic quality and something that depicted Winnipeg at the turn of the century."

Gil Gauthier: "I loved the Murals here in Winnipeg. I especially love the Mural at Main and Higgins-it is my favourite of them all. We started talking it up and we got a hold of Charlie and pulled some ideas together with him. We had entertained several different ideas: from the fur traders going up the Assiniboine River; something portraying buffalo and an early native settlement; or some other scene having to do with the legislative building. But we finally decided that we wanted to feature the hotel itself. Charlie came up with this one particular sketch that used this 3-D technique and just brought it all out and we just loved it."

Cheryl Collins (general manager, Regis Hotel): "This is 1911 and this is a depiction of the front of the building with Smith Street there. The other building is the Birks building, which is still there (the four-storey 38,000 building was built in 1900 as the first YMCA in Western Canada and was taken over by Birks Jewellers in 1912). Some of the cars Charlie did were from pictures of the hotel in the street we had given him."

When you stand back and look at it for from the perspective of the establishing shot (photo 1), it looks seamless: "I spent a lot of time thinking about that," says Johnston. "I've done those optical things before but never on this scale. I've been able to achieve those optical illusions for example in a small room, or where you're crossing over angled walls. There's a kind of optical illusion mind game going on where here's a play off the real versus the illusionistic; there's a group of the real windows blending in with a group of painted windows that project outward three-dimensionally. I was imagining the space of the street and the streetcar coming into the foreground on that other plane. And then there's the hard things like making the lines of the streetcar pass through (seamlessly). It's tricky and it only works when you're at a certain point. But as you walk around the Mural it changes. To me it's a crossover piece between a Mural and a sculpture. It definitely has sculptural qualities to it. Sculpture is about mass, manipulation of spatial elements, textures, gravity; those are a lot of the principal elements of a sculpture."

"Working on this Mural also had a theatrical quality, like creating a massive set: the backdrop the stage, creating an environment; then playing with things like the lighting, props and characters, and animating the scene and taking you back into time 90 years. I tried to include textures and qualities like the overhead wires and streetcar rails that would help give it the feeling of the time. Colour choices too can help evoke the mood and feeling about the era."

"The weather was always a problem. I got heatstroke three times in August working on that wall. That subroof made a nice working area but it was hot. The lower wall was brick but the large massive wall was stucco so we were working on different surfaces. The parking lot was busy too, with a lot of cars there. Because of this, I found that Sundays were the best time to work there. The cherry picker would not reach the center and left top of the wall,

This is a man who creates on large canvases around Winnipeg.

Posted by Jan Bjorklund on Sun, 12/13/20 20:44
[ Back to Index | Home | Previous Image | Next Image ]

Comments by Jan Bjorklund on Sun, 12/13/20 20:46

An image from back in the day when the hotel was a hotel and reality flowed into the fantasy of the mural.

Comments by Jan Bjorklund on Sun, 12/13/20 20:48

Nik detail extractor
CS5 auto contrast

Location: NW corner Broadway & Garry; East Face
Occupant: Union Centre Building
District: City Centre
Neighbourhood: South Portage
Artist(s): Charlie Johnston (C5 Artworks)
Year: 2020

Sponsors: Union Centre, Manitoba Federation of Labour, Take Pride Winnipeg!

Comments by Jan Bjorklund on Sun, 12/13/20 20:48

The artist (Charlie Johnston) at work during the summer of 2020 on a large mural at the Union Centre which is visible from where I live.

Comments by S Roter on Mon, 12/14/20 18:58

Interesting story Jan, pictures too.

Comments by Jan Bjorklund on Wed, 12/16/20 14:19

The Saint Regis Hotel mural on the south facing facade of the hotel sitting in its South Portage neighbourhood.

Comments by Jan Bjorklund on Wed, 12/16/20 14:21

Mural of the Year 2003

"It got a lot of comments. People were yelling at me from the street, honking their horns as they drove by. The parking lot attendant told us that