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Peter Doig at the Courtauld, 10 Feb – 29 May 2022

Notes on the Doig exhibition, Feb 2023, Courtauld

Doig turns commonplace scenes into sublime moments.

He narrates with a lexicon of registers:

  • The turpsy bleed
  • The seductive hair pining line
  • The turps less dry mark
  • The thick scrape of paint off the palette knife
  • Sharp edges
  • Transluscent washes
  • Unquestioning serpentine line
  • Among others

It’s this constellation of facture and register which emits meaning and feeling

The subject matter is a way to access this way of making

Doig’s subject matter is to do with place and time

Doig paints place

Specifically a kind of home sickness / lessness

He began this painting in Zermat*

Finished it in London

He lived in Trinidad

Now in London

This traversing of place leads to something consonant in his practice

He paints in a way, the feeling of being in London, dreaming of Trinidad

It is the search for something different

It is the longing for presence from a place of absence

It is lack

It is day dreaming

It is projectring

And eliciting the psychedelic and imaginative from the mundane

If you look at the figures doig paints, they are not present, there is dissonance between the figure and their environment

These figures physically are in these landscapes, but psychologically somewhere else

He shows this by showing his figures

staring out of the canvas

anonymised abstracted expressions

barriered by goggles

lying on the beach at night, floating, with no shadow underneath them,

amputated from their environment

temporally confused

When it comes to time he is clever

He employs the history of art in a way that turns it from a burden into a voice.

It is a way for him to speak to previous moments in tine

In the same way he does with space

The Harlequin was painted by






De Chirico

And speaks to figures such as van gogh

The outcast, the character who does not have a place and space in society

Who makes no sense

Who lives by alternate logics and systems of value

If we think of the Harlequin as a body dis-integrated from the rest, the whole, from belonging we see a congruence with doig on a phenomenological level, an artist who’s identity is scrambled, living in Scotland, Canada, London, Dusseldorf, Trinidad and London, as well as Switzerland. Like this, his paintings are concerned with becoming and potentiality as opposed to fixed identity, which is inherently the spirit of a progressive disposition.

In another work, he riffs off Cezanne’s Bathers, it shows a strong figure, particularly uncomfortable in body language, and something is clearly missing, they seem lonely and longing, they seem totally keyed in, yet with a heart on mute, nothing can escape, there is nothing outside the frame.

Doig’s works jump gears on the level of facture, emotion, presence, absence, motion, suspension, and time, yet everything is still.

The way I would describe doigs practice is like this:

A head amputated from a body and

thrown over the edge of the ship,

warping from the waves

jettisoned on loop, pulled around by the moons force

in chaos

last thing, it is a great pleasure to see these paintings adjacent to the Courtauld’s collection of paintings. I think the work ‘pairs nicely’ with Toulouse-Lautrec, The Bathers at Asnieres (NationalG) and the fake Manet at the top of the stairs.

A rare example of good painting today, definitely worth seeing.


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