“The Toledo Series by Douglas Haynes, is my choice for favourite work of art from the collection of the Art Gallery of Alberta. It’s cheating a bit because there are actually 13 works in the series (painted from 1988-90) and all intended by the Edmonton painter to be seen together.
They were inspired during a trip to Spain where Haynes saw paintings of Christ and his apostles by the great master El Greco. I love this part of the story – the way the past is reworked in the present – nothing is new, but much is rediscovered and rethought. Haynes translated the impact of El Greco’s large figures and their robes into abstract paintings whose compositions and colours recall the originals, but take the viewer into a world of contemplation. Square shapes of gorgeous colour move around the canvases on top of neutral coloured backgrounds, sometimes in patches, sometimes in wisps. Some are back lit with another luminous colour and appear to lift of the canvas. These are mysterious and hauntingly beautiful to me.
I’ll never forget how thrilling it was to see all thirteen paintings in one room when they were first exhibited at the Edmonton Art Gallery in the 1990s. Sometimes size and scale have a lot to do with the impact of a work, and certainly that is the case here.
Douglas Haynes made a gift of these 13 paintings to the AGA in 2005, and every time I see one of them I am deeply moved by the image, the colour, the luminosity and the emotions they evoke.”
Maggie Mitchell is a long-time Donor and Patron of the AGA. She holds an honours degree in art history from the University of Toronto and was a curator at the Edmonton Art Gallery before it eventually became the Art Gallery of Alberta. Since then, she has served many years on the AGA Board of Directors.