Between dream and illusion comes the artwork of artist Rob Gonsalves. Gonsalves (1959-2017) was a Canadian artist who produced a delightful series of paintings that were part optical illusion, part flight of fantasy. He described himself as a “magical realist” rather than a surrealist as his paintings were rooted in the real world and inspired by his own experience and knowledge, taking his influences from folklore, history, and architecture. He described his work as “a window into another world,” like a film still containing a secret narrative to be uncovered. Each picture was carefully constructed—he spent many hours sketching out his ideas before putting paint-to-canvas.
Gonsalves was born in Toronto. From an early age, he showed considerable aptitude for art and spent much of his free time sketching buildings and streets with pencils and crayons in the quiet corners of the family home. He attended the Ontario School of Art for one year, before studying architecture then working as an architect for five years. His interest in architecture featured heavily in his paintings—from tree-born skyscrapers to bridges casting off into ships across a tumultuous sea. On occasion, he used his architectural knowledge as a source for a painting—for example “Widow’s Walk” which showed the balustrades on the balcony of a house morphing into the figures of women looking out to sea, anxiously waiting for their fishermen husbands to return.
His first success came in 1990 when he submitted work to the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition. The public response to his trompe-l’œil paintings led Gonsalves to give up architecture and focus solely on art. His style of finely-detailed painting saw him associated with artists like Escher and Dali, and some of his earliest work was included alongside these artists in the book Masters of Deception. His paintings proved immensely popular were shown across the world. He also had several volumes of his work published and contributed illustrations to children’s books including Imagine A Day.
In June 2017, at the height of his success, on a beautiful clear day, Gonsalves committed suicide. As one obituary reported “Although Rob died too early, he definitely made his mark on the world.”
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
‘Do you have this octopus in my size?’ The surreal shoes sculptures of Costa Magarakis
A man for all seasons: Meet Surrealist painter, poet, and erotic artist Jindřich Štyrský (NSFW)
Surreal dolls reveal the dark fantasy worlds that live under their ‘skin’
Yves Tanguy: The master Surrealist who ate spiders and created smutty sketches just for fun
Welcome to My Nightmare: The strange and disturbing ‘hyperrealist absurdism’ of Beau White