Peter Doig - Contemporary Art and Design Evening Sale New York Tuesday, March 3, 2015 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Private Collection, North Germany
    Private Collection, Berlin

  • Catalogue Essay

    “I often paint scenes with snow because snow somehow has this effect of drawing you inwards.”
    Peter Doig, 1994

    The glistening slopes of winter have long served as the ideal backdrop to Peter Doig's seminal landscapes. At once consoling and disorienting, the motif of snow brings an art historical timelessness to his wintry endeavors. Curator Stéphane Aquin describes Doig as an artist who “embraces everything, soaks it all in and churns it out in a way that is his own.” (J. Poul. “The World is Peter Doig’s canvas,” The Montreal Gazette, January 24, 2014) In the present lot from 1997, two converging rosy mountains meet to form a recreational oasis where adulthood quickly descends into the most innocent parts of itself. A brilliant convention of athletes dance in a choreographed blizzard of power and grace.

    Doig possesses the distinct ability to conjure in the viewer a sense of unfamiliar nostalgia, one where foreign scenes become like distant memories. His beautifully rendered paintings melt into their surroundings, collapsing the space between the landscape and the world that exists outside of the pictorial space. Doig follows in a long line of winter landscape painters who have all depicted nature covered in a lush blanket of snow, bringing to mind such masterpieces as Claude Monet’s Impressionist Snow Scene at Argentueil, 1875 and the Limbourg Brothers' early Renaissance illumination for the month of February from their Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry. Most famously, winter in the context of art history immediately brings to mind the Flemish landscape painters of the 16th century; in particular, Doig has commented on his great admiration for Bruegel the Elder’s painting Adoration of the Magi in the Show, 1563. As he explains, “When you look at [Bruegel’s painting,] the snow is almost all the same size, it’s not perspectival, it’s this notion of the ‘idea’ of snow, which I like. It becomes like a screen, making you look through it….it keeps you back [yet] looking through and into [the picture] within.” (Peter Doig in L. Edelstein “Peter Doig: Losing Oneself in the Looking,” Flash Art 31, May – June, 1998, p. 86) While the Adoration of the Magi in the Show depicts hunting dogs in the foreground and ice skaters twirling upon distant frozen lakes, Doig sets his winter scenes in a contemporary sphere, rendering energized skiers and snowboarders in the midst of action. The snow and winter conditions re-establish the forms of a once familiar landscape, while the term “visual snow” is often used to describe a rare condition when a person may see “snow” or “television-like static” across their fields of vision. Doig’s snow compositions are often executed in pale dazzling colors of pinks and yellows to capture the reflection of sunlight upon fresh snow. Snow not only reflects light at a higher level than absorbing it, but simultaneously acts as a sound-absorbing material, which engenders a softened environment of muffled acoustics.

    Examining the present lot, myriad twisting and turning snowboarders crisscross the composition from every direction. This energized throng appears rendered as if in the midst of the winter Olympics. The pale pink mountains and small black fur trees that line the slopes allow the figures to take on an almost superhuman form as they fly through the air like ominous winged creatures. Their dance flattens the composition and renders the space ambiguous. The snowboarders are caught in a choreographed dance in mid-air, fitting together like darkened puzzle pieces upon a wash of pink. Doig’s handling of paint captures blankets of translucent pigment and gestural splashes of watery pink paint across the composition. At the bottom of the picture a small standing figure can be seen, he observes the composition above his head while his tiny scale puts the vastness of the winter mountains into monumental perspective. The winter landscape, once considered an obstacle to the routines of daily human life, has been re-imagined as a magical landscape with no visible boundaries.

    The sublime comes to mind as one embraces the beautiful forms of nature that stand in direct contrast to the awesome whimsy of these suspended figures. The English romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge would argue for the “metaphysical sublime” located in the gaps between the elements of nature, such as those between the earth and the sky, where we find our winter enthusiasts. Instead of gazing upon these figures with terror over their impending fall to earth, we may instead wish to place ourselves alongside them in the infinite haven of Doig’s enchanted and celestial picture. The brink of wilderness is precisely where Peter Doig may be found: it is this capricious strangeness of unfamiliar terrain that tugs on our collective memory, one where “there is no foreign land; it is the traveller only that is foreign, and now and again, by a flash of recollection, lights up the contrasts of the earth.” (Robert Louis Stevenson, The Silverado Squatters as quoted in Peter Doig: Foreign Lands, exh. cat., Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh, 2013)

  • Artist Biography

    Peter Doig

    Scottish • 1959

    Peter Doig is widely considered one of the most renowned contemporary figurative painters. Born in Scotland and raised in Trinidad and Canada, Doig achieved his breakthrough in 1991 upon being awarded the prestigious Whitechapel Artist Prize and receiving a solo exhibition at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in London.

    Doig draws on personal memories and source imagery in his pursuit of exploring the slippage between reality, imagination and memory through painting. The material properties of paint and expressive possibilities of color thereby serve to approximate the foggy, inarticulate sensation of remembering. His practice maintains a thin and balanced line between landscape and figure, superimposing photographic imagery and memories, both real and imagined.

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paint, collage on paper
22 5/8 x 28 1/2 in. (57.5 x 72.5 cm)
Signed and dated "1997 Peter Doig" on a label affixed to the reverse of the frame.

$200,000 - 300,000 

Sold for $293,000

Contact Specialist
Amanda Stoffel
Head of Evening Sale, Contemporary Art
New York
+ 1 212 940 1261

Meaghan Roddy
Head of Sale, Design
New York
+ 1 212 940 1266

Contemporary Art and Design Evening Sale

New York Auction 3 March 2015 6pm