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Critic's Pick: Peter Doig
Artforum.com
David Rhodes
14 November 2012

For his first exhibition at Michael Werner’s new Mayfair location, Peter Doig exhibits a group of new paintings, each of which depicts a quiet interim moment, such as an unoccupied balcony or a person walking by water. The relatively timeless nature of each causes the works to be both disquieting and contemplative. Rendered in stained and thinly applied colors, suggesting solid forms without overly defining them, Doig’s skeins and drips are as much a subject of interest as the people or things depicted. 

In Cricket Painting (Paragrand), 2006–12, soft-edged zones are contiguous with each other, displaying their own colors, some earthy, some phosphorescent. They coexist in a space that is simultaneously topographical, perspectival, and atmospheric. Time seems chronologically arbitrary and it’s unclear whether the beach is solid or transparent. In both cases, it seems as if Doig saying that realism is negotiable and subjective. This ambiguity continues in Night Balcony North Coast, 2012: Rendered in dark blue, green, and yellow, the painting depicts an empty corner balcony. The colors evoke twilight, and within this nocturnal light—a familiar theme in Doig’s work, which adds to the temporal vagueness of his painting (it is neither night or day)—it seems as if something has passed or is about to happen. Throughout this exhibition, backgrounds and figures interchange fluidly, and Doig makes the exotic ordinary and the platitudinous engaging, mobilizing an ambiguity that produces a situation without clear explanations—a lack of certainty the artist once called a “numbness.”