Peter Doig: Refusing to Be Distracted by an Eight-Figure Deal
The Wall Street Journal
Pia Catton
15/16 December 2012

Several years ago, painter Peter Doig faced two shocks arising from his own success. 

A 2007 auction bidding war pushed the price of his painting "White Canoe" (1991), estimated to sell for about $1.5 million, up to $11.3 million, making him the most expensive living European artist of that time. Then in 2008, the Tate Britain presented his first career survey, which spanned more than 20 years and 50 paintings and works on paper. 

In the wake of the auction, "I felt like I had the rug pulled out from under my feet in a way," Mr. Doig says. "In the studio, you have to ignore that because once you start thinking about that, you're doomed." So the artist says he took the Tate survey as a chance to re-evaluate. It was a chance to "see what you've done.... What do you do next? You don't want to repeat yourself or completely reinvent yourself." 

The results are on view in London, where this Trinidad-based, Scottish-born painter is having his first exhibition in London since the 2008 survey. The Michael Werner Gallery chose Mr. Doig's works to inaugurate an elegant, townhouse-style space in the city's Mayfair neighborhood. (Werner also has locations in New York and Germany.) 

Admirers of Mr. Doig's work shouldn't expect to see obvious changes. "There is a lot in this show that is 'new,' but it's mostly in the ...surfaces of the paint itself," says Gordon VeneKlasen, a partner at Michael Werner who has represented Mr. Doig since 2002. He's using new ways to deal with longtime motifs like a cricket game, Mr. VeneKlasen adds. 

The works on view at Michael Werner range in price from $250,000 to $3 million and include several haunting images that are both abstract and representational. 

"Walking Figure by Pool" (2011) is based on a photo of the French artist Francis Picabia, a surrealist and cubist who died in 1953. "I liked this image of the man, walking into darkness," said Mr. Doig. "It's not meant to be a portrait." 

In contrast, "Painting for Wall Painters (Prosperity P.o.S.)" (2010-2012), depicts an unfinished mural of Caribbean flags Mr. Doig saw outside of a bar. "I was thinking of looking from Trinidad to Africa—and the ubiquitous colors of red, gold and green, and the Lion of Judah," a symbol of the Rastafari movement that's depicted as well on the Ethiopian flag.