Rob Gonsalves: Knowledge Makes the World

by Minami Sumiya

According to Joseph Joubert, an 18th century French moralist, “He who has imagination without learning has wings but no feet.” Rob Gonsalves is a painter of magic realism and the paintings drawn by his imagination are simply amazing. Rob Gonsalves was born in 1959 in Toronto, Canada. Rob Gonsalves has been interested in drawing since he was a child and he grew up drawing images from his imagination. His work is influenced by the work of Salvador Dali, Rene Magritte, Maurice Cornelis Escher, and Remedios Varo and his work is often categorized as surrealistic. The subject matter of his paintings is often familiar places and familiar activities to people. He draws children playing with toys, people trimming yards, students studying in the library, and some other things people normally do. Rob Gonsalves sees the unique relations between the world and human activities and he understands the world in a unique way, and it can be said that what makes his works attractive is his idea that the world is made from knowledge. In this paper, two of Rob Gonsalves’ paintings “Towers of Knowledge” and “The Chalkboard Universe” will be discussed to explain his idea that knowledge makes the world.

Towers of Knowledge (2009)

In his painting named “Towers of Knowledge”, it can be seen that Rob Gonsalves believes that the world where people live is made from knowledge. In “Towers of Knowledge”, two different scenes are drawn. One is people studying in the library and the other is a city with many buildings. What is amazing is that there is no border between these two scenes in the painting. The dark ceiling of the library becomes a cloud in the sky aglow with the setting sun of the city and the library’s floor becomes the streets in the city. Furthermore, the books stacked on the desks in the library are transforming into the city’s buildings. Books become buildings. That must be a truth for Rob Gonsalves in a practical way. It is natural that he thinks buildings are what people can make from what they learn because he has a degree in architecture and worked as an architect for five years after he graduated from the Ontario College of Art. It can be seen in this painting that the more books are stacked, the more magnificent the building becomes. These things express Rob Gonsalves’ thinking about relation between books, as a symbol of knowledge, and cities, the world where people live. Also, it can be said that this way of thinking of Rob Gonsalves makes his painting unique.

The Chalkboard Universe (2010)

The painting named “The Chalkboard Universe” describes Rob Gonsalves’ idea that people can even create the world they have never seen by obtaining knowledge. “The Chalkboard Universe” is a painting that shows a professor giving a lecture in a classroom. An amazing transformation can be seen in this painting as well. The classroom becomes the universe in this painting. The letters written in white on the chalkboard become the stars as the chalkboard becomes outer space. Also, the blue wall of the classroom becomes the surface of the blue planet. By drawing the universe in a classroom, Rob Gonsalves expresses the idea that obtaining knowledge gives people an unlimited imagination to create the world we have never known. It can be said that Rob Gonsalves believes that the world we have never seen is made from imagination, and the imagination is made from knowledge.

Rob Gonsalves’ idea that the world is made from knowledge is seen in these two paintings and it can be said that this unique way of recognizing the world makes his works attractive. In his works, Rob Gonsalves shows that cities, houses, and almost all things around people are made from knowledge. Also, by learning, people can even create the world they have never known. It can be said that knowledge is the source of imagination for Rob Gonsalves. Someone who saw Rob Gonsalves’ works might say his imagination is amazing, but it should be considered what things make his imagination amazing. Having imagination alone does not work well just as having wings without feet never works well.

Minami Sumiya is a second-year student in the Dept. of British and American Cultural Studies.

More about Rob Gonsalves:

Rob Gonsalves. Discovery Galleries. 2003.