A Gallery Merrick discussion with Cowichan artist Donovan Rose on his new series, inspired by his recent European travels. Starting on September 13th, visit Gallery Merrick to see La Dolce Cabana on display. Experience brand new pieces in our classic favourite style from Donovan, as well as some brand new explorations. Learn about them in this interview conducted and written by new Gallery Merrick resident writer, Heather Froese.
GM: Your new series La Dolce Cabana is inspired from your recent travels to Poland and Italy. How was your trip?
DR: I spent my time in Poland with my partner – who became my fiancé on the trip - imagining what I was about to see in Italy; what the scenery would be like, the culture. When I got to Italy I spent a lot of time taking photos, doing drawings, and imagining what they would look like as paintings. When I got back, I just started painting straight away and these pieces evolved themes that you see now - a lot of landscapes with different kinds of stripes playing into them.
GM: How did Italian culture inspire your work while you were there?
DR: The inspiration truly came from the experience itself. Actually, a lot of these stripes that I’ve put into these paintings come from a tile that my fiancé and I found as we walked one night on the orad between two small towns, Ravello and Pontone. On the walk, we found this pile of tiles on the side of the road, and one of them was striped blue and white. I took it home with me and left a few Euros in its place. Sitting with my coffee the next morning, I looked at it and it was just so typically Italian to me that I knew I had to incorporate it into my paintings. I’d hold the tile in front of me along with a landscape photo I took for inspiration as I painted. I realized that everything I imagine in Italy has these white and coloured stripes.
GM: Tell us the story of your Cabana Boys portraits.
DR: For me, the portraits were more playing at typical Italian culture. They’re not images of real people. During this trip, I had a bit of a physical hindrance that limited some of our plans and really affected our trip. I started creating these characters based on my emotions and my reflection of that injury. They’re all from inside my head.
GM: What differentiates La Dolce Cabana from your past work?
DR: In the past, most of my art has been figurative. This is my first time doing a lot of landscape, but I’m not very interested in realism so it’s landscape pared down into a more flat, simplistic style which I’ve always found to be effective. I kind of made them interior with the use of the stripes, so you’re meant to be standing inside looking out at the landscape.
As an artist, every year I hope my work progresses from what it was before, while still implementing themes I have used in the past. I always hope to think differently, change, and progress.
GM: You’ve been represented here at Gallery Merrick for over a year now, and you run the Ou Gallery in Cowichan at the same time. How has the business side of things encouraged your work over time?
DR: I find I’ve been creating as prolifically as possible to keep things fresh for the gallery. The artists represented here are doing such new and interesting things and always creating. Gallery Merrick is my first and only gallery representation – it’s been an incredible journey and developed into a personal friendship as well as professional.
GM: What do you want people to know about La Dolce Cabana?
DR: I’m really excited to present it! I’ve been working hard for the last 3 months, and I’m very proud of this work. I’m very much looking forward to sharing it with people.