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.