D E C E M B E R 2 0 1 7Željko RodićOakville


The Universal Language of Art
The task of selecting a Canadian artist to be featured in our magazine
was not an easy endeavor; whom to choose among so many respected
and significant names? This dilemma was easily resolved after consult-
ing with accredited Serbian artists living in Hamilton, Toronto and
San Francisco. During this search, only one name was consistently
suggested, Douglas Edwards, and it did not take long to discover why
he is so highly revered.
I met with Douglas at the Trias Gallery in Oakville, Ontario which
is among one of several galleries in North America exhibiting the work
of this unique artist. After being immersed in his large oil landscapes,
one cannot deny the authentic artistic expression of someone who
has been surrounded by nature since his early youth; the images are
filled with trees, birds, streams and animals. Every brush stroke on the
canvas is a testament to his deep connection with nature, like visions
that are engrained in his subconscious that continue to inspire his
creative process. His paintings are easily distinguished by his unique
perception of the sky, at times leaving some raw edges, drawing the
observer into the landscape. The abundance of endless inspiration is
enough for two lifetimes. This is perhaps the reason Douglas reluctant-
ly steps away from the easel, hoping that all his ideas will eventually
materialize.
It can be said with certainty that Douglas’ mother Jean Edwards,
an opera singer, and his father, Stanley E. Edwards, a respected attor-
ney and passionate skier, are responsible for having provided a won-
derful, carefree childhood and solid foundation for their five boys. In
Douglas’ youth, his parents were looking for a suitable place close to
a ski resort for the family to spend weekends and vacations togeth-
er. They purchased a farm near Creemore, not far from Collingwood
and Blue Mountain, a true ski paradise. It turned out that this decision
had a lasting and meaningful significance for their five children, and
later their grandchildren, creating a lifetime of fond memories. These
memories are compiled in Stanley’s autobiography, “My Story”, which
Douglas unselfishly shares with me. He then enthusiastically pulls
out his mobile phone, sharing a video of his mother performing at a
charity event that was founded by Douglas’ late father. It is hard to say
whether he is prouder of his mother or father, both of whom have done
so much to enrich his life.
Douglas chose to study figurative art at the prestigious OCAD Uni-
versity, formerly titled the Ontario College of Art. In his fourth year, he
studied abroad in Florence, Italy. The journey to this world-renowned
fine arts 70 artistic oasis can most-definitely inspire young artists, but at the same time can be discouraging after seeing unimaginable treasures that one feels they can never emulate. This juncture was particularly difficult for Douglas who was questioning how to forge his own artistic path, struggling between choosing his formal study, figurative art, or his
true passion, landscape art. Ultimately, Douglas chose to focus pri-
marily on landscape art despite creating an impressive collection of
figurative art.
Douglas’ life takes on an upward trajectory when he receives an
unexpected invitation; he is asked by a respected Serbian-Canadian
artist, Djuro Lubarda, to join artists’ colonies in Serbia, Republika
Srpska and Montenegro. This opportunity that Douglas accepts is a
life-altering experience in many ways. He primarily acknowledges the
generosity and openness of the Serbian people, which begins with the
obligatory shot of plum brandy; language barriers easily vanish in this
setting. Moreover, the artists’ simplicity of life, colonies’ tranquility
and their connection to nature is embellished with the backdrop of
breathtaking costal sunsets. Different priorities prevail in these new
surroundings where materialism takes a back seat to nurturing life-
long friendships and savouring the relevance of this unified connec-
tion. Zograf, Peko, Panto, Snezana, Milan, Pedja, Visegrad, Prilipac,
Susanj, Bokokotorski zaliv: names and places rhymed off by Douglas
in one breath as if these are places and people that he grew up with.
Douglas recounts his experiences below:
I met Zograf four years ago at my very first art colony in Visegrad,
Republic of Serbska. He doesn't speak English and I don't speak
Serbian, yet from the very first meeting I think we understood each
other and have grown to respect each other both as artists and as
people. Telling stories of the war, I could not imagine what horror
he went through along with most people there at that time. But
through that bad experience he has remained a kind, giving and
loving individual. He helped me enormously at the colonies, lend-
ing paint, materials and always sharing his ideas of how to improve
my art in a positive way. I watched him paint his unique techniques
in watercolor and oil over and over again with immense skill and
originality. “I studied at Smegotenska (a small village where he grew
up) Academia” he joked, and said he learned everything about art
from his professor, the local rooster. The rooster taught him free
and unique art. Expressing his experiences from the war gives his
work depth and value. In some abstract way you can see the bombs
going off, the people suffering, the pain in many of his paintings.
But there is also a beauty and harmony. I think it's his way of deal-
ing with his experience in a healthy positive way.
We remained in contact and this year I met him for three art
colonies. “The rakija is 20 years old” he said on our first meeting
in four years as we cheered and drank the bottle. He always looked
the universal language of art
Željko rodić