Gordon Roache 1938-2016

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Parade of Sail — Gordon Roache

Parade of Sail — Gordan Roache

Parade of Sail — Gordon Roache — 1985

Acrylic on Masonite
Image Size: 18 x 28 inches
Price: 900
Details: Signed and dated on front, signed titled and dated verso
Framed: Measures approximately 24 x 34 inches.
Provenance: Private Collection, Nova Scotia.

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Vacant Lot Backyard of Brunswick St. — Gordon Roache

Vacant Lot Backyard of Brunswick St.

Vacant Lot Backyard of Brunswick St. — 1987 

Acrylic on Masonite
Image Size: 16 x 20 inches
Price: 700
Details: Signed and dated on front, signed titled and dated verso
Framed: Measures approximately 23 X 27 inches.
Provenance: Private Collection, Nova Scotia.

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Gordon Roache died June 10, leaving a legacy in paintings that captured the landscapes and figures of the city of his birth.
“He really saw the struggles of the homeless and poor and impoverished of the city and he painted them, he was a very compassionate soul,” recalled his stepdaughter Tanya Isaac.
“He’d go around town, sit on a bench or a stair and sketch. He basically painted the city and the people in it — that’s what his love was,” she said.
Roache’s “warts and all” approach at his easel sometimes left rubble or dishevelment in a painting, and that was “off-putting” to some who preferred a rosier picture, Isaac said.
“He painted the homeless and the down-and-out because of his compassion for human beings,” she said. “He had a real love for those who were struggling.”
“The children from the poor families don’t know they are poor,” Roache is quoted on the website ucanbuyart.com.
He is remembered by Isaac as a “peaceful, compassionate, generous soul.”
Roache attended St. Mary’s University and studied with artists Julius Zarand and Ruth Wainwright.
Like many artists, he had a day job to support a family, working at the HMC Dockyard for over 30 years, and painted throughout those years, Isaac said.
Roache found it difficult to promote himself and his work, and his wife Jovanna, a poet in her own right, became his devoted publicist.
“He didn’t like to speak about himself or talk about himself. She was really the wind beneath his wings, as they say,” Isaac said.
Jovanna Roache died in 2015. In her mother’s papers, Isaac found some of the paintings Gordon Roache created for his wife on special occasions — like the Santa he stayed up all night on Christmas Eve to create in time for Christmas Day.
“He loved her so much,” she said.
With the help of family, a big Victorian home on Lady Hammond Drive was turned into the Burning Candle Gallery.
Bigger shows followed, at places like the Lord Nelson Hotel’s Georgian Room, and the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.
“The invitations were collectors’ items in their own right,” Isaac recalled. “Opening night would be swamped with people.”
Roache received many commissions. He hesitated in doing faces for fear of disappointing people, she remembered.
His paintings are held in private and public collections around the world, including the National Gallery of Canada, and some of them may have a secret little something extra, Isaac said.
“When my father was putting frames on the paintings, sometimes there’d be a little gap. He’d put one of his paintbrushes inside to fill the gap, but you’d never know unless you took the painting out of the frame,” she said.
“It’s like a little treasure that you don’t know you have.”
The quiet artist had his own hardships — he was plagued for much of his life with insomnia, and often burned the midnight oil at his easel, Isaac said.
“He loved Van Gogh. I think he identified very much with Van Gogh because he struggled,” she said.
“Whenever I hear (the Don McLean song) Starry Starry Night, I think of my father.”
In 1986, Tundra Books produced Halifax ABC, a book created with a series of 26 of Roache’s paintings, showcasing his trademark style — lots of acrylics, generous brushstrokes, bright and dark colours in his early work, and more subdued tones later.
The importance of family was reflected in his work; he created paintings for his granddaughter Julia, and his limited edition print, Rene Looking Out The Window shows son Rene as a toddler, looking out on a snowy night scene.
He was generous to local causes; his paintings were often donated to help raise funds for Hope Cottage and IWK.
“He really was beloved by so many people, he cared so much about this city and the historic sites of this city,” Isaac said.
Gordon Roache was 78.

Sources: Chronical Herald