You write the reviews: Peter Doig, Tate Britain, London
Friday 29 February 2008
Peter Doig's peculiar brand of painting is magnetic. Emotional, vibrant, pulsating, the Scottish- born artist's show at Tate Britain showcases a retrospective journey over conventions and continents. Does Doig's delight come from intensifying reality? Taking photographs, newspaper cuttings and video stills, he creates a fantasy that is more pleasing than real life. He outlines a landscape that is the antithesis of mundane, a cocoon that blindingly unfolds, a kaleidoscope replacing conventional vision. The shimmering pastel tones concertinaing a Japanese ski resort in Ski Jacket (1994) may not represent what we think we see: it is far closer to the texture of an ephemeral memory. This is the stuff of impressions, of momentary, fleeting glimpses.
Colour is moulded sculpturally into patterns and structures. Doig works and reworks the images, sketching, drafting, layering and over-layering. He contorts and combines elements of imagination and reality, pulling the cloth of scarlet hue through the pinhole of an alpine lake. Studies for Girl in Tree (2001) reveal the unrealised possibilities that hover slyly beneath the surface in any work of art.
A sort of equilibrium strings the paintings together. We cross from the engineered flooding of a Canadian lake in Blotter (1993) to idyllic depictions of Le Corbusier's Modernist structures in France. Transitions such as these are necessary: the exhibition spans the time from when Doig was completing an MA at Chelsea School of Art, aged 30, up to the present. And so accordingly there is variation. Later works are heavier, lines are etched deeper. Where earlier works glide, these can, at times, wallow. This is not, though, a fault. Earlier works, however, including Jetty (1994) and The House that Jacques Built (1992), have a delightful inconsistency and freshness that later paintings lack; a breathtaking spontaneity is born, the kaleidoscope is tuned to perfection. Does Doig fail to keep this up, or has age changed his perspective?
The artist modestly confronts his achievements on a screen outside the exhibition area. He talks serenely, and not altogether seriously, of a "warlock-like" figure seated on a hill; of the marks that rain can create naturally on a canvas. Just as this rain poignantly blurs tones, Doig's brush blurs the imaginary and the realistic, the intended and the accidental. It is in this that his work is most inspired and inspiring. By using his own brand of magic, Doig pushes us to expect the implausible.
To 27 Apr (020-7887 8888)
Holly Gupta, Sixth-form student, London
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