February 5, 2008

Doig retrospective opens in London

Using photographic images from newspapers or snapshots as a starting point, Peter Doig recasts everyday imagery to make imaginary landscapes and figure scenes. All are imbued with a strong sense of atmosphere – his figures seem out of time, and his landscapes possessed of a strange, haunting presence. (See images of his work at Werner and artnet.) Spanning the last two decades, this show at Tate Britain brings together over 50 paintings and a substantial group of works on paper, including work made in the five years since his move to Trinidad in 2002. In the Guardian, Adrian Searle reports that not all the work is entirely believable or an unmitigated success, but Doig is incapable of making a boring painting. "Genuine disquiet pervades Doig's newest work. The man climbing a palm in one appears oblivious to the shadowy forms in the sky filling the rest of the canvas. The stories are dissolving, leaving only emptiness and murmurs. Elsewhere, leaves hang thick and fleshy like swollen tongues in the heat. They have a sexual menace that needs no further explanation. There are things happening at the edge of vision, but they stay understated and are more troubling for it. To tell the truth, as a former painter, I am almost jealous of Doig's recent paintings, of their presence and frankness; they have the kind of authority that can't be striven for, but only arrived at like an unexpected gift - one that may pass." Read more.

In the Evening Standard, Ben Lewis compares Doig's paintings to work of the early 20th century. "In the Nineties, there was nothing apologetic about Doig's painting. Rather, he returned to that moment, at the beginning of the 20th century, on the eve of abstraction when painting ruled the world, its proud purpose to be beautiful....It may be too neat a formulation, but just as in the works of the early 20th century, one can see modernist painters struggling to evolve abstract compositions from real scenes, with Doig it's the reverse - he is pulling real scenes out of an abstract surface. It's traditional and original. As the saying goes, he's an old dog with new tricks. But is it too nice? Way too beautiful? Walking-around this exhibition, the thought kept crossing my mind. Some of the paintings, I worried, resembled an over-iced child's birthday cake - the spatters of white, yellow, blue and green like hundreds and thousands and the congealed dots of thick oil paint like Smarties." Read more.

In The Observer, Laura Cumming gushes that Doig's retrospective is the most enthralling show in town. " Its achievement is to mystify even as it compels. Doig's paintings have always been singular - narcotic, yet intensely stimulating, beautiful yet way out on a limb - and they seem to grow more original and mesmerizing by the year....Every scene suggests an idee fixe, some sight or experience perpetually trapped in the mind that can never be exorcised. Doig's gift is for making these memories seem not just his own, but the viewer's as well, as if we, too, could not forget these peculiar moments in films, novels or scenes skimmed from life with a camera that keep flashing back on the mind's eye." Read more.

"Peter Doig," Tate Britain, London. Through April 27. The exhibition will travel to ARC/Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris from 29 May – 7 September 2008, and Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, Germany, from 9 October 2008 – 4 January 2009.


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Finding painting's pulse
Painting modern life (from photographs)

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