From the entrance way at the Ile d’Anticosti, to the head of Lake Superior, tens of thousands of the great Canada Geese feed and nest along the 3,700-km waterway. On cool grey mornings and against the backdrop of neon sunsets, seafarers on the decks of Canada Steamship Lines (CSL)’s cargo ships marvel as the geese rise into the skies in flocks that migrate south in their emblematic V-shaped formations.
Between mid-February and early March of 2017, four urban Montreal artists worked together to create the mural on the forward façade of the accomodations block of the bulk carrier CSL St-Laurent that depicts a Canada goose with its powerful wings spread in flight, its forward motion a tribute to Montreal and to Canada.
The Sea Keeper/Gardien des eaux is an original work of art conceived by Montreal urban artist Bryan Beyung and created by Beyung with artists FONKi, Ankh One, and Benny Wilding of the Ashop art collective. The monumental mural was created over a few weeks – a feat which is in itself is worth noting – and required the ingenuity of CSL's Technical Team to make it a success. Painting an original work-of-art of this scale of a a ship was a first for the artists, a first for CSL and a first for a Canadian commercial vessel.
Instantly recognizable, the iconic Canada Goose is a familiar sight along the banks of the St. Lawrence Seaway and represents the vessel sailing in harmony with nature. It was natural, then, that the bird in flight would be depicted on the CSL-commissioned mural to commemorate Canada’s 150th birthday, the 375th anniversary of the City of Montreal, and the roles of the St. Lawrence Seaway, marine transport, and CSL itself in building the nation and the City.
Clearly visible from afar, the goose’s coherent outline contains its diverse and colourful back, wings and tail, each painted by one of the four artists in his signature style and with his unique vision.
Bursting with colour, The Sea Keeper melds and weaves the diverse techniques of each artist into a unique and beautiful piece of art that combines cultures and styles to evoke Montreal’s and Canada’s diversity. The mural’s overall impact is both inspiring and hopeful to the seafarers who will sail with it everyday and to the thousands of people on the shores of the Great Lakes and St-Lawrence River who will watch it as CSL St-Laurent and her Sea Keeper sail by.
CSL chose CSL St-Laurent to host the tribute to Montreal and Canada because her name honours the St. Lawrence River, and her state-of-the-art technology and seamanship represent the new generation of high-performing, environmentally-responsible cargo vessels.
For CSL, the mural project also highlights the renewal under way at CSL with Louis Martel officially stepping into the role of President and CEO of CSL Group on April 1. Under his leadership, CSL is focused on the future with a new structure and team that is ready for both the challenges and the opportunities that lie ahead. Like the Sea Keeper, CSL’s vision for the future is one of diversity, collaboration, innovation and excellence.
Producing an original work of art of this size on a cargo vessel was not only a first for the artists and the company, it is a first for a Canadian commercial bulker.
A Tribute to the Role of Marine Transportation in Canada’s and Montreal’s history
The history of marine transportation in nation and city building goes back a long way. Long before what is now Canada existed, First Nations’ explorers and entrepreneurs paddled freighter canoes the length of the continent’s waterways, trading furs, tools, beads and food. Later, Métis and First Nations voyageurs working for the Hudson’s Bay Company transported goods and supplies via what is now the St. Lawrence Seaway, opening up huge swathes of land and leading the way for the barges, ferries, freighters, tugboats and ships that have put marine transportation at the heart of Canada’s and Montreal’s economy and history.
Not only has the shipping industry served as a lifeline to businesses and communities along the Seaway, it has created jobs that have sustained Canadian and Montreal families for more than 100 years. Today the St. Lawrence Seaway is a dynamic and vital trade artery connecting the North American heartland to overseas markets. Since it’s monumental completion in 1959, ships transiting the Seaway’s locks have carried 2.9 billion tonnes of cargo valued at more than $400 billion safely and efficiently.