Mind-Twisting Optical Illusion Paintings By Rob Gonsalves (30 Pics) Interview
Rob Gonsalves was a Canadian painter of magic realism known for his beautiful and mind-bending optical illusions. Most of his paintings have an unclear boundary between the multiple stories they tell, which forces the viewer to jump back and forth between them.
Gonsalves’ interest in art began at a young age. He was interested in creating artworks from his imagination using different materials. When he turned twelve, he started to learn about perspective techniques and began to paint and draw imaginary buildings, which led to an increased interest in architecture.
As it is written on the official site of Rob Gonsalves, his paintings speak "to the joyful and wonderous imagination of children and to us adults who can still find that inner child willing to swing so high that our shoes touch the sky." Scroll down to explore the surreal worlds!
Interestingly, Rob Gonsalves worked full-time in architecture for about five years. That's one of the reasons why you'll see a lot of architectural subject matter in his paintings.
As the artist shared in one of his interviews, drawing was something that he always loved doing as a kid. "There is a lot of planning involved before I start painting on canvas. The early part of a painting is just developing the concept, and thinking about what kind of subject matter I would like to try and pursue. And once I decide what the initial concept is, I spend a lot of time doing preparatory drawings."
"Probably 60 percent of the time is in that drawing preparation stage when I sort that all out. It's usually about three weeks to do the painting part, which is relatively short compared to the planning part, but it's kind of the most enjoyable part because it's more intuitive," Gonsalves shared.
We were fortunate enough to get in touch with Lise Carruthers, a skilled oil painter and the widow of Rob Gonsalves, to have her share insights into his life and art. Carruthers told us that the conceptualizing of a painting was always the hardest and most stressful part of Gonsalves' process. 'It is 'what you catch from the corner of your eye' kind of process (not a forced, focused way of working). Rob got his ideas from living. For example, on our trip to Prince Edward Island in 1996, we stood at the base of the PEI side of the Centennial Bridge while it was under construction. For a brief moment, Rob saw another reality, and eventually, that image became 'Sun Sets Sail'.
Making an idea work on canvas so that the viewer is effortlessly transported into different realities required mathematical calculations to manipulate perspective. Rob worked on a drafting table. He was a meticulous worker. It was fortunate that we eventually had enough money to rent a studio for me to paint in because I am messy."
Carruthers shared that she and Gonsalves met (as vendors) at the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition at the start of Gonsalves' professional career as an artist in 1989. "We moved into a small attic apartment in an old Toronto house in 1991, where we shared a small room to paint in. Fortunately, Rob worked during the night and I painted during the day. I experienced the process of every painting Rob created and was the backup model when he couldn't find a source for a figure in a certain perspective."
"Picasso once said that his life was better before his work became sought after. Rob thought the same. The pressure to churn out paintings that invoked child-like joy in viewers was stressful. Every painting had its own integrity, and he scorned at repeating an idea. It was definitely not a supply-and-demand business. As soon as a painting was finished, it was sent to the gallery and sold to someone on the waiting list. Rob humorlessly joked that he couldn't afford to buy one of his paintings. That meant he couldn't afford to keep any as well.
The year Rob died, he wanted to take a break from painting and focus more on music. We were trying to reconfigure our lives to make that possible when he gave up. It was often frustrating to live with him, as he lived a lot in his mind and was not communicative. It was his physical life where he found his vision. Sometimes I felt that I had the life cruise director role in our relationship, but he imparted the magic. Now it is tragic to live without him," Carruthers shared.
According to Lise Carruthers, the paintings that Gonsalves thought were the most special were the ones that best symbolized his life. "Most of them were not his most popular works and often not technically the best. One of my favorites is 'Union of Sea and Sky' but that depends on the day. What is wonderful about his work is that viewers see their own magical experiences. People would always ask Rob what his painting meant (and where did he get his ideas). What he said is redundant. Being the legacy keeper has shown me that his art is great because it universally expresses joy and wonder. Adults become reconnected to their inner child whose eyes can see the magic. That was Rob Gonsalves's gift."
Rob Gonsalves once shared that an illusion is a device that he used to try and create a magical effect. "I'm always trying to develop concepts that have an expression of imagination, a sense of wonder, or a sense of magic. There are moments of real magic. It's just something that is part of life, and you have to be open to it, but it's there."