The Window Series

Knights and White Satin

Oils

Watercolours

Transitional Pieces

The Window Series (1988-present)

On first moving to Toronto in the mid-1980s, the artist found it difficult to make social connections in the city, and consequently to continue his earlier practice of portraying familiar people in their domestic or professional environments. Instead, he began to paint storefronts and window displays, abstract scenes encountered from the outside of the glass. What began as a statement of personal alienation, however, gradually grew into a more complex way of capturing multiple levels of reflection and reference. Windows offered the artist a visual metaphor to depict the shifting contexts, surprise juxtapositions, and random cultural references that characterize urban life.

Technically and stylistically more complex than the artist’s earlier rural work, the Window Series uses the Cubist idea of a very shallow space and a deregulated environment in terms of perspective. Tolmie explains, “For a realist it is very exciting to break out of the strait-jacket of vantage point perspective. In any one painting the image may be composed from parts of different windows, and perspective and focus may vary from point to point.” The initial medium of the series was drybrush watercolour; several of the paintings displayed here (notably Ashley’s Window) demonstrate the extraordinary level of skill that the artist brings to this medium. As the series developped, the artist switched to oil on canvas and worked on an increasingly large scale, following from the decision to paint Knights and White Satin, the flagship work of the series, in oils. Other monumental pieces from this stage of the Window Series include The Ice Queen and Chinatown Window II.