Exhibition Review: Peter Doig, Michael Werner Gallery
London Evening Standard
Ben Luke
21 March 2014

Many artists' early works are nothing but an uncomfortable or awkward precursor to the mature artworks that made their names, so I approached this show with a degree of trepidation. But it is an absolute revelation. Peter Doig is renowned for a style that is both thoroughly figurative and yet enigmatically abstract — enveloping in its painterly vigour, yet rooted in Doig's response to the world around him. It's a vision so sumptuous and absorbing that it has made him one of the world’s leading artists.

More than 40 paintings from Doig’s early years, in the mid-to-late-Eighties, have been brought together here, and they reveal his search for a language and how extraordinarily inventive he was in his pursuit.

Many works are strikingly urban, in contrast to the landscape-based works with which Doig established his reputation. One room is dominated by paintings inspired by New York City, which leap between clear detail — in individual figures or architecture, such as the Chrysler building — and a free-form experimentation with the stuff of paint. Doig applies the pigment with a rawness and directness that he restricts in his later work.

Most impressive is his ambition: not content with describing the world in prosaic terms, he grapples with the weight of painting’s history, from Courbet to pop art and the German neo-expressionists that dominated the Eighties scene.

Many paintings are flawed in their composition or their application, but this is a fascinating show, reflecting a bold, innovative artist on the cusp of something special.