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Welland's Murals:
27. Canal Digging

About the Mural
Canal Digging by Brian Romagnoli, Lincoln, Ontario. Painted in 1988, at 176 King Street, 28' by 31'. The mural places the viewers back in approximately 1824 and portrays the three elements of canal building: man-his muscle power and ingenuity, horsepower and machine power.

The Artist's Interpretation
"When approaching the subject of digging the Old Welland Canal, one has to realize that this was one of the mose awesome engineering projects undertaken in our history. In order to circumvent the unnavigable Niagara River rapids and falls, the canal was built to link the Great Lakes to the St. Lawrence Seaway, using a series of locks between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. It took four different building periods to complete the task: 1824-29, 1833, 1871-87 and 1912-32."

"My mural reflects three-major ingredients of canal building; horsepower, machine power and manpower. In the 'humanistic' tradition, I chose the dominant figure to be a Herculean man, wielding a pickaxe, in the foreground. There is a sense of confidence, ingenuity and unwavering conviction in his face, while his actions speak of a pioneering force as he breaks up the stone. In the middleground, he is supported by secondary figures - a draught horse pulling a railcart, and two men trudging up the hill, digging into the escarpment."

"The background montage of historic photos was conceived to give further credibility to the locale of the subject. Perhaps this is a trademark of mine, since I believe that there is more to painting a mural than just replicating a big photo on the wall. By creating an 'antique granulized' effect, these scenes are subdued, and the drama of the foregrounds - which is entirely original - is increased."

"Murals have to be treated differently. They have to be over-dramatized and very theatrical. It's also very important to do research about the time period so you can be accurate with the details."

"They say that when you're in Rome, you should do as the Romans do, and play out your life like theatre in the streets. After seeing Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel, I had to wonder whether Wellanders were ready for this type of extroverseion. Well, they surprised me!"

Your Virtual Guide's Comments
Romagnoli's eloquent and articulate explanation of his work leaves little need for additional comment. The mural is a powerful depiction of man's dedication and determination, enabling him to carry ships over a mountain. The mechanical creations are relegated to the background, by both their position and their ghostly representation. The essence of the power necessary to complete the Welland Canal is the man, not his machines. Compare the treatment of the man in this mural to that offered in "Canal Construction" or "Steam Engine." Romagnoli presents a celebration of man and a buoyant confidence in the future of the Welland Canal. 

About the Artist: Brian Romagnoli, Lincoln, Ontario
Brian Romagnoli is a graduate of both the Ontario College of Art and the University of Guelph and also studied at the British Institute in Florence, Italy. The opportunities he had to closely view the works of the old masters influenced his own work significantly. Brian is comfortable painting various subjects in several media.

He runs a graphic design business and has designed and marketed more than 100 logos for small businesses, corporations and institutions. Through a second company, he has published several limited edition prints of his paintings, which are distributed across the country.

Brian has a growing reputation as a "historian with a paintbrush" and leads the way in the uncharted territory of Canadian heritage art. He has more than 50 art shows to his credit and became the first Canadian to be commissioned to design Christmas Collector Plates by Royal Copenhagen of Denmark, the world's oldest manufacturer of plates. This brings a time-honoured tradition to Canada for the first time. Brian's art appears in private and corporate collections across North America, China, Japan and Europe.

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