Deceptively immaterial yet richly layered, thirty of Peter Doig’s wall-size paintings, along with dozens of prints and studies, open like portals into other dimensions—temporal, physical, metaphysical. Arranged neither thematically nor chronologically, the paintings often appear to shimmer in and out of focus, like panes of stained glass stacked atop varying light sources. In Milky Way, 1989–90, a black panel of pointillist stars is reflected in water, bordered by moonlit lime-green foliage. Cinematic yet still, the painting shows Doig’s early interest in capturing darkness and light, shadows and organic mirrors in nature—as well as the boundaries of horizons.
Doig’s tangible evocations of pathos and place thread together early and more recent works: Some are quite narrative, such as House of Pictures, 2000–2002, in which a cloaked, russet-haired man peers into dark pictures (or are they windows reflecting the twilit city behind him?); others, such as the spooky silhouetted Man Dressed as a Bat, 2007, seem like surreal embodiments of the subconscious.
With the celestial concerns and apparitional quality of fellow Trinidad resident Chris Ofili’s paintings, and the kaleidoscopic airiness of Pierre Bonnard, Doig’s depictions of nature nod to Impressionism and, in the high-concept art atmosphere of 2015, a refreshing subscription to the singular power of pictures. By using photographic (and occasional cinematic) references as well as his own memories, Doig constructs images that register in phases; looking at his work is not unlike recalling a dream. Yet by leading one’s perception through various channels and layers of recognition, Doig generates a heightened reality that tests the truth of our senses.