An interview with Rod Prouse
By George Farrell
Published Feb. 28, 2019
Peripheral, a 2017 exhibition at the Quest Gallery in Midland, Ont. featured new works by Rod Prouse that took him out of the realm of traditional landscape artist, and into the world of storytelling. The new pieces were filled with flora and fauna, flotsam and jetsam around which Prouse created his narratives.
“That show was a game-changer for me,” Prouse said in an interview for the Midland Mirror, in September of 2018. “For the last 10 years I wanted to move beyond the landscape and that’s when it all came together.” It came together to the extent that Prouse received a $15,000 grant from the Ontario Arts Council to continue his work.
Though he lives and works in his studio on Georgian Bay, Prouse comes to the Highlands so frequently that you could say he has honorary citizenship. I interviewed him recently at the home of his friend and frequent travel companion, local potter April Gates. We talked a bit about his background, the new direction of his work and the thinking behind it.
In 1947, Prouse’s parents Hilda and Bill, with two-year-old Rod, moved from London, England to Toronto. Bill became a well-known printer in Toronto, and growing up young Rod learned many tricks of the printing trade from his father, which he later used in his own works.
“I learned techniques like masking and layering, which are the foundations of printing, and this thinking percolated slowly through my career,” Prouse said.
In 1968 Rod graduated from the College of Art in Toronto where he majored in printmaking, silk screening and lithography. After a brief period of time spent in the commercial art field, he became a full-time artist. He moved to Halifax in 1972, where he began to exhibit his art to positive reviews. His first one-man show was in 1977 at the Canadian Fine Arts Gallery in Toronto where his paintings were very well received.
“Before 2004 when I decided to work big, I worked a lot on location, with multimedia techniques, using watercolours and oil pastels, and layering again. I was not a careful painter,” Prouse said, “I wanted to capture the moment more. I went to oils and then acrylics, but I was traditional in building my paintings from the background to the foreground, putting in the highlights at the end. They were energetic but realistic landscapes.”
“Later on I started to enjoy manipulating the images in non-conventional ways,” Prouse said, “sometimes putting in the details first or flooding the canvas with expressionistic, hard-edge marks, and then turning them into recognizable shapes.” Prouse uses rollers, squeegies, sponges, scrapers, and brushes to make his marks on the canvas.
“I then started to expand my concept by looking at the landscape as a stage, and the objects within the landscapes as players who had stories to tell,” Prouse said. “A lot of art is replicating what’s seen, but I’m painting about more of what is happening within,” he explained. “People go to the beach and become beachcombers. The items that they collect tell a story and they become players in an ongoing play. So I’m painting about our relationships with nature.”
Prouse has done a lot of travelling in his 50 years as an artist, including painting trips to the Caribbean, across Canada and the United States, creating images, in his inimitable fashion, that reflect the essence of every location.
Prouse has taught art at the Haliburton School of Art + Design, and he’s exhibited locally at the Ethel Curry, Agnes Jamieson and Rails End galleries, as well as galleries in Bancroft, North Bay, Ottawa, the West Coast and England.
“But I spend a lot of time here,” Prouse said. “Haliburton is as much a home to me as where I live.” Prouse was recently part of the Ice Cube Gallery which took place on the ice of Lake Kashagawigamog. You can see his paintings at www.rodprouse.com.