Visual arts: Altered images

Peter Doig's exhibition in the Whitechapel Art Gallery this summer is the painter's first major show in a British venue, although the same space hosted a small show of the artist's work upstairs in 1991. Since then, his career has taken off at home and abroad; he won the John Moore's Prize in 1993, and in 1994, he was short-listed for the Turner Prize and won the Prix Elliette von Karajan.

He has quite a following on the Continent, especially in Germany, where a version of this exhibition will tour to two different galleries and where Doig's fondness for snow and trees and mountains recalls something of the high romanticism of Caspar David Friedrich, albeit with a psychedelic twist and unreal, Seurat-inspired colour schemes.

There are a lot of other factors at work in these pictures, not least a flavour of Doig's Canadian upbringing and the heady atmosphere of old films and photographs.

A number of these are revealed as direct sources in the handsome catalogue which accompanies this exhibition, the first pages of which illustrate a selection of images from the Doig picture library. Some suggest an atmosphere or act as a vague memoir, others are clear admissions of stolen images - such as a photograph of a girl in a canoe taken off a screen showing the horror movie Friday the 13th, a silent, frozen moment extracted from a larger story.

It's quite a brave move for Doig to own up to these references so honestly but then, as this exhibition shows, the paintings stand up well against their sources. The best of them are deeply atmospheric with a distinct, often eerie quality and a density that isn't just to do with Doig's layers of paint. The most successful, I think, are often the simplest, such as Daytime Astronomy (above), Blotter - the painting that won the John Moore's Prize - and the recent Pink Mountain, a huge, gloriously empty picture of an upside-down snowboarder.

This is a good show by an artist who looks increasingly like one of the best painters of his generation. It's worth seeing, as is a short film about Doig that has been made for the exhibition by Simon Grant and Anabel Cutler.

Peter Doig, Whitechapel Art Gallery, Whitechapel High Street, E1 (0171- 522 7888) to 16 August

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