This exhibition of ten oil paintings by Peter Doig—his first show in London since a 2008 retrospective at Tate—offered an update to the pigment-saturated technique he has developed over the last two decades. Few new themes emerged, but the show served as a reminder of Doig’s original use of atmospheric color that is bold but rarely garish, and his extraordinary talent for figuration.
Born in Scotland in 1959 and raised largely in Canada, Doig now works mainly in Trinidad, and he employed a fittingly tropical palette in these works. In Figure by a Pool (2008-2012), a small figure shuffles through a riot of pink, olive, and sulfurous yellow. The painting has an indistinct, oneiric feel, as if the scene were a fantasy or a memory in the mind of its protagonist. This theme is echoed in Walking Figure by Pool (2011). Executed in only slightly more restrained hues, its subject and luscious tonality evoke David Hockney, but the sheets of color that veer into abstraction are more likely to bring to mind early works by Richard Diebenkorn.
In the vibrant, ten-foot-tall Cricket Painting (Paragrand), 2006-12, we see cricket players on a bright orange beach, a recurring motif in Doig’s work. While this painting lets us drink in Doig’s effortless flair for depicting figures in action (surfers, snowboarders, and skiers have popped up in previous works), he’s just as adept at representing subjects at rest. InCave Boat Bird Painting (2010-12), a man dozes in a canoe, his face carefully distinguished against the bright background. Here and elsewhere in the show, the artist seems to be drawing on influences from Edvard Munch to Pierre Bonnard to Arshile Gorky. It’s a measure of Doig’s remarkable achievement that his paintings stand up to any of them.