Tate Britain is mid-way through its run of Turner-nominated painter Peter Doig’s exhibition, and this weekend we ducked in from the rain to catch a bit of the sublime.
Doig employs immense canvases upon which he layers textured melancholic colour upon colour, executing incredibly complex fragments that appear effortless from a distance. The exhibit follows his beginnings at Chelsea Art School in London through to his most recent work rendered in Trinidad, where the Canadian-raised artist now lives. Although Doig has represented the frenetic urban London life in his immense breadth of work, this exhibition emphasises his mastery of the landscape genre, a turf generally overlooked in contemporary painting. The Canadian landscape of his youth is deftly explored here, in all of its wintry, quietly wistful splendour.
Most of Doig’s figures are “blotted out” in one way or another; bodies are shadowy outlines, bereft of the colours so rich in the landscapes or houses eclipsing them. There are elements of Van Gogh’s deep harvest tones and texturing, of Gerhard Richter’s photographic blurring techniques, and the watery purples and greens in his later Trinidad series can’t help but call Gauguin to mind. Most of Doig’s canvases glimmer with snowflakes in the extreme foreground, as though caught and held there by a photographer’s lens. He uses water to reflect many of his images onto themselves, imbuing the paintings with an evocative dreamlike quality.
The real magic, however, is how endlessly captivating his paintings are. Their sheer enormity, complexity in composition and chaotic texturing and branching can find you unearthing something new after several minutes of standing gape-mouthed in front of it. The Independent and the Guardian seem to feel the same way we do, so get down to Tate Britain before this remarkable show moves onto Paris. Thanks for our New Favourite Artist, Tate.
By Kira Hesser
Peter Doig is at Tate Britain until 27 April. Tickets are £8, students get in for £6. Exhibitions daily 10.00-17.40 (last admission 17.00)
Image of Peter Doig 'Swamped' 1990 courtesy Victoria Miro © Peter Doig, Oil on canvas 197 x 241cm