by Aleksandra Kurek
Oscillating between surrealism and abstract expressionism, gathering inspirational impetus from memories and dreams, the oeuvre of Peter Doig strikes us as enigmatic, uncanny and addictively fascinating.
On February 11, Chrisite’s evening contemporary sale under the heading of Post-War & Contemporary Art will be featuring Peter Doig’s ‘The Architect’s Home in the Ravine’ from 1991. Guaranteed to sell against a low estimate of £10 million, it will reaffirm Doig’s status as a truly excelling and admired contemporary artist.
Born in Edinburgh in 1959, Peter Doig has lived a peripatetic life, spending his early childhood in Trinidad, subsequently moving to Canada where he experienced a rather turbulent adolescence involving experimenting with LSD, until he moved to London in 1979 to pursue an art degree at Wimbledon School of Art, and later at The Chelsea College of Art and Design. He finally returned to Trinidad in 2002, where he set up his studio at the Caribbean Contemporary Arts Centre.
As general trends show a steep decline in the sales of contemporary art, works of Peter Doig prove themselves unyielding to the unfavourable forecasts in the art market. His paintings continue to be amongst the world’s most desirable, making him one of the leading artists of our time. It is worth recalling that his painting ‘White Canoe’ sold in 2007, for an estimated £7 million, which at the time was a record breaking price paid at auction for a work by a living European artist.
Often noted for his original use of supplementary sources, Doig’s artistic methods constitute an original form of pastiche. He combines a range of photographs, memories, postcards, and dreams to form fascinating, beguiling images which are spectacularly unique and often arouse a strange déjà vu sensation in its viewers.
Considered a master colourist, Doig skillfully deploys abstract techniques to verge the gap between the familiar and the uncanny. He creates resonating images charged with mystery and nostalgic reminiscence. As seen in his quintessential work ‘The Architect’s Home in the Ravine’, Doig creates juxtapositions by using a rich scheme of bright colours to (perhaps ironically) create a sense of mesmerizing melancholy in his paintings. Additionally, he explores the notion of ‘looking out’ or spectating, and yet subverts the viewer’s expectations by hindering them from fully engaging in and deciphering the painting. Drawing upon the influential works of Peter Bruegel and Jackson Pollock, Doig creates a distant, dream-like winter scene in which the house is engulfed in the overpowering natural landscape. We intuitively seek to make out the solid structure hidden underneath the snow-covered branches, but are firmly refused access. We are left out to ponder, to enquire, but will never be able to satisfy our curiosity.
Doig sides with artists such as Henri Matisse, claiming that the painter’s principle objective is to convey his thought principally through visual language. We may therefore conceive that Doig’s non-linguistic art ought to appeal to the senses rather than to a rational mind. As seen in ‘The Architect’s Home in the Ravine’ as well as in ‘Pelican’, despite the lack of symbolism, or literal allusions, Doig succeeds in constructing impressive, hypnotic landscapes in which we are dominated by emotion.
An artist of feeling, Peter Doig continues to demonstrate the value of art’s sensual resonance, re-establishing the concept of ‘good art’ as one foremost concerned with arousing aesthetic pleasures. Thus, he liberates art from its long-standing tradition of acting ‘in service of the mind’, overly occupied with archetypes and allegories, allowing it instead to speak for itself through the captivating power of colour, texture, and space.
 Peter Doig, 2001, 20 Questions by Matthew Higgs in Peter Doig, Published by Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, University of British Columbia.
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