Oct 19, 2011

PROFILE | Peter Doig | Haunting and Psychedelic

Peter Doig, Night Playground, oil on canvas, 1997-98
Peter Doig is a contemporary artist born in Scotland. Many of Doig's pictures are landscapes, with a number harking back to the snowy scenes of his childhood in Canada. His works are frequently based on found photographs, but are not painted in a photorealist style, Doig instead using the photographs simply as a reference. Peter Doig's artworks often seem to conjure up a strange sort of nostalgia. They remind me of how one can feel after waking up from a dream and then trying to explain it in pictures. Some objects are painted using a realistic approach while others drift towards abstraction.

Colors waver in and out of other colors, and details are either done with great execution or left out completely. In "Night Playground" there are figures walking towards something or someone while their limbs disappear into nothingness. It as if he is painting while his brain is still asleep. The lights look dreamy and hallucinatory. They shimmer the same way that Van Gogh depicted light in "Starry Night Over the Rhone". One can feel the wind and the leaves rustling while looking at these trees. He creates a feeling that might take minutes in a movie or performance to amalgamate, but he captures it in one shot.

Peter Doig, Orange Sunshine, oil on canvas, 1995

In this painting, impressionist techniques are harbored as well as abstraction. The sun is not orange, but it's rays are. Even though the red trees appear closer to us than the mountains, they are still branded with one color that evokes a certain mood and temperature. The figure that just ramped a snow hill has become one with light. His identity is no longer important to the artist. However, the emotion remains. The figures become color and motion. As cold as it appears to be, the warmth is spread from the sunlight, it's shadows, and the color of the trees. He shows nature to be patterns that give one a sense of security. This is done through repetition. However, everything remains unpredictable at some point, just as nature is in reality. Stillness and movement are both represented in one painting. I feel that he is trying to make us feel a feeling of contentment with what could happen in the future. He is saying be here now, yet do not get caught in the moment of it all.

I think that what drew me to Peter Doig was the fact that his paintings encompass the natural and the unreal, the light and the darkness, as well as the old and the new. The images that he paints from seem to conjure up a feeling in him that is based on emotion, not logic. When his paintings are done, there is a feeling that was not in the image prior. I wonder what he will do next, so does Peter Doig. This is why I enjoy him and his work.

-Sam Williams

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