Oct 142010

Fiction breaks barriers people assume are sacrosanct. I was watching Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street the other night, fascinated mostly by the conceit of the world of dream invading the waking world of so-called reality and vice versa. Leon Rooke has a story called “Magi Dogs” in his recent collection The Last Shot in which a real dog walks into a painting.

I had no sooner finished my new painting, White Cottage with Green Shutters, when a dog poked its nose in the door, looked me over with only the mildest interest, then without further ado trotted up the painting’s cottage path, yawned, and at once dropped down asleep by the front steps. I was glad I hadn’t given the cottage an open door or the dog likely would have walked right inside.

The story develops in sections along several armatures but eventually returns to the painting and the dog.

The dog is pacing the cottage path, she turns and looks me over as I enter the studio, I draw fresh water from the tap and place the tin can on the floor, she quickly laps up all the water, wags her tail, then trots up and scratches at the cottage door, these deep whines in her throat. With chalk I throw in a few quick lines to open a makeshift door, the dog pushes through and runs straight to the divan.

For a long time I sit on the model’s hard chair looking at the dog, thinking that if one dog arrives this can only mean others may follow, which leads me to something else I have been frequently mulling over these recent days, Anjou’s insistence that from time to time the mind must be excavated, emptied, so that it may discover a solace fundamental to its journey.

What storytellers know is that grammar has nothing to do with truth, that the throw of grammar leads into the light of the imagination. Dreams can invade reality, dogs can take up residence in paintings (and bring their friends).

As it happens, besides being a great storyteller and novelist, Leon Rooke is a painter of brash, dynamic pictures on display at the Fran Hill Gallery in Toronto. There are homages here (obvious in the title), also bits of narrative, often ironic (also signaled in the titles), exuberant colours and bold eroticism. These pictures are exciting to see and ponder against Rooke’s words, his stories and novels which trend always toward that point where the mind empties and opens itself to “a solace fundamental to its journey.”


The New Quebec, 2010
oil/canvas, 24 x 48 in.
Collection of Sybil & Morris Fine

City Pony Walk, 2010
oil/canvas, 16 x 20 in.
Courtesy of Fran Hill Gallery

In Matisse’s Garden, 2010
acrylic & woodl/canvas, 48 x 24 in.
Courtesy of Fran Hill Gallery

Notre Dame Yellow, 2010
acrylic/paper, 14 x 11 in.
Collection of George & Martha Butterfield

Leon Rooke’s work is shown at the Fran Hill Gallery in Toronto.

Fran Hill Gallery Showroom
285 Rushton Rd.
Toronto, Ontario M6C 2X5

416 363-1333

  4 Responses to “Four Paintings — Leon Rooke”

  1. Sadly, I am no where near Toronto.

  2. These are wonderful! They do feel dreamlike. I’ll try to get to the gallery. And I love the dog walking into the painting, the unpredictability of life and consciousness. Nuns on skateboards and carousel ponies prancing through the city make perfect sense to me!

  3. These are beautiful. Thanks so much for this and all of your posts, stimulating, muse-awakening stuff.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.