Peter Doig: Tate Britain, London

By Stonard, John-Paul | Artforum International, April 2008 | Go to article overview

Peter Doig: Tate Britain, London


Stonard, John-Paul, Artforum International


AT THE HEART of Tate Britain's retrospective of Peter Doig is a room of paintings for which the artist is perhaps most known: the "Concrete Cabin" series of 1991-96, comprising views of a modernist building seen through thick, dark trees. Among these works, Cabin Essence, 1993-94, is one of the best, featuring a large expanse of forest with strange floating leaves of paint, composed as though the whole image were a reflection in water. Visible through the trees is the modular black-and-white facade of Le Corbusier's Unite d'Habitation apartment building in Briey-en-Foret, France, but the emphasis is less on the functional clarity of the architecture than on the mysterious foreground, which evokes the dark, glowing surfaces of Gustave Moreau. Cabin Essence is a great lyrical work that, although telling no particular story, distills the striking format of a strong inner structure held within a field of floating organic and decorative elements, and, like its equally remarkable companion pieces, the image is one of rationality submerged in mystery.

It is to Doig's credit that he has avoided repeating this idea and instead, as the fifty-seven paintings and slightly fewer works on paper here demonstrate, has constantly renewed his subject matter. In the early 1990s, for example, he turned his attention to developing a richly spattered surface, often using a black speckle that resembles mold or something grown in a petri dish. This is given a soft, waxy appearance by being applied directly to a sized, unprimed canvas. In works such as Jetty, 1994, this dry rot is, it must be said, very beautiful--even if such easy elegance also seems at risk of becoming kitsch for its instantly pleasing pictorialism. Doig avoids this pitfall largely thanks to a variability steeped in his photographic source material. Virtually all Doig's paintings are made after found illustrations, postcards, film stills, or photographs, some taken by the artist himself. If these images have anything in common, it is only their generic, distant appearance. The scenes seem familiar but the subjects unknown; there is no vital cord of recognition that draws us into caring about the situations or the people they show.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

This feeling of strange indifference is carried through to the paintings, which have a mute quality, like film stills. Intriguingly, the exhibition catalogue reproduces a source photograph that has clearly spent time on Doig's studio floor; it is stained and spattered with gobs of colored paint giving off an oily halo. As a relic it might remind one of the photographic material rescued from Francis Bacon's studio after his death, but Doig's picture is different--it looks exactly like one of his paintings, as if the latter were formed by a similar process of random accretion. Unfortunately, none of this material nor the etchings Doig often uses in preparation for his painting are included at Tate Britain (although they are glimpsed in an informational film).

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Peter Doig: Tate Britain, London
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.