Slushy Landscape (with figures)

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  • Provenance

    Schönewald Fine Arts, Dusseldorf
    Zwirner & Wirth, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner in March 2002

  • Video

    'Slushy Landscape (with figures)' | Peter Doig

    Dina Amin, head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art in Europe, examines Peter Doig's remarkable ability to invoke a sense of memory and nostalgia in 'Slushy Landscape (with figures)'.

  • Catalogue Essay

    Painted in the immediate aftermath of Peter Doig’s Turner Prize nomination in 1994, Slushy Landscape (with figures), 1995, presents anonymous silhouettes, mysterious architecture and luminescent birch trees in a gleaming snowscape. Echoing Doig’s Red House of the same year, the present work gathers the symbols and themes that defined the artist’s visual repertoire in the mid-1990s, and propelled him to the forefront of contemporary painting. Coalescing visions of real sceneries and imagined lands, the composition draws from Doig’s unique working method that spans photographic imagery, personal memories and vivid imagination. Mediating figuration and abstraction, it compounds a number of stylistic references, namely the haziness of Impressionist strokes and the ghostly veil shrouding photorealistic paintings, most vividly exemplified by the canvas's pearlescent luminosity.

    Situated at a turning point in Peter Doig’s artistic development, Slushy Landscape (with figures) is a mature rendering of the artist’s visual syntax, spanning a number of his pictorial idiosyncrasies in a restrained palette of glowing whites and earthy browns. Celebrating the multifarious qualities of oil paint, the composition captures the medium’s ability to achieve seamless nuance, herein producing the astonishing illusion of snow melting into the very weave of the canvas. As varying shades of white scintillate in areas where the snow is meant to appear sparse, icy or melting – on the bark of the birch trees or the tiles of the house’s roof – deftly dispersed strokes emulate the effects of light drifting on a sunlit ice field. As the artist observed: ‘We’ve all experienced the sensation of light dropping and producing strange natural effects, and I think in a way I am using these natural phenomena and amplifying them through the materiality of paint and the activity of painting’ (Peter Doig, quoted in Adrian Searle, Peter Doig, London, 2007, p. 132).

    Inspired by the lush landscapes of rural Quebec where the artist spent his childhood, Doig’s paintings of the 1990s are defined by three crucial subjects: snowscapes, woodland scenes and modernist buildings plunged in impenetrable vegetation. The thread tying Doig’s magistral works from this period, including Pink Snow, 1991, Museum of Modern Art, New York, and Ski Jacket, 1994, Tate Modern, London, the subject of snow emanates an air of nostalgia that has since continued to underpin his artistic production. Weaving a delicate balance between form and emotion, Slushy Landscape (with figures) merges flickering hues of frozen matter with the foggy, faltering sensation of remembrance. Inspired by Pieter Bruegel's winterly visions, Doig remarked ‘when you look at [Bruegel's painting] the snow is almost all the same size, it's not perspectival, it's the notion of the 'idea' of snow, which I like. It becomes like a screen, making you look through it’ (Peter Doig, quoted in Richard Shiff, ‘Drift’, Peter Doig, New York, 2011, p. 329). Dispensing with notions of flatness and depth, Slushy Landscape (with figures) portrays an idea rather than a place: it becomes an all-consuming, immersive landscape that transcends mere representation.

    Building on notions of reverie and nostalgia, the present composition transforms into a mesmeric dreamscape. Through methods of mirroring and doubling, Doig invites the viewer to examine the distinctions between reality and representation, and to enter the liminal space held at the junction of both. The barren tree fragmenting the centre of the composition’s plane participates in achieving this paradoxical, dual tableau; reminiscent of Barnett Newman’s infamous zip, it produces two peripheral spaces within a single composition. ‘The mirroring opened up another world. It went from being something like a recognisable reality to something more magical’, Doig explained (Peter Doig, quoted in Judith Nesbit, ‘A Suitable Distance’, Peter Doig, exh. cat., Tate Britain, London, 2001, p. 14).

    Just as abstraction and figuration are at play in the present work, a tension between nature and man-made structures seems to arise, where snow flurries and organic agents encroach on the main house at the composition's centre. ‘I always wanted a landscape to be humanised by a person or a building, at least something that suggests habitation’ (Peter Doig, quoted in Adrian Searle, Peter Doig, London, 2007, p. 16). At once threatening and inviting, the house portrayed in the composition is kept doorless and windowless, closed off from the viewer. As Doig isolates the cabin and renders it literally impenetrable, the structure is made all-the-more ghostly, summoning an invisible breath that permeates both its walls and surroundings. A group of anonymous silhouettes gathered at the forefront of the painting emphasises this tension. Diametrically opposed, they present an image that is akin to that projected by a warped or fallacious mirror.

    An exquisite example of Peter Doig’s expert handling of the painterly medium, Slushy Landscape (with figures) evinces the qualities that heralded Doig as one of the greatest painters of his generation. Existing in an in-between space where reality, memory and imagination are one, the present work invites us into Doig’s distinctively ethereal world, and demonstrates his ability to ‘suggest retrospection and nostalgia and make-believe’ through the captivating theme of snow, as deployed in the most acclaimed of his works (Peter Doig, quoted in Paul Bonaventura, 'A Hunter in the Snow', Artefactum, No. 9, 1994, p. 12).

  • Artist Bio

    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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11

Property from a Private American Collection

Slushy Landscape (with figures)

signed, titled and dated ‘PETER DOIG June July 1995 'SLUSHY LANDSCAPE' (WITH FIGURES)’ on the reverse
oil on canvas
30.5 x 40.4 cm (12 x 15 7/8 in.)
Painted in 1995.

Estimate
£600,000 - 800,000 ‡ ♠

sold for £699,000

Contact Specialist
Rosanna Widén
Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+ 44 20 7318 4060 rwiden@phillips.com

20th Century and Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 7 March 2019