Peter Doig - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale London Wednesday, March 6, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Private Collection (acquired directly from the artist)
    Sotheby's, London, 22 June 2007, lot 303
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    Peter Doig’s White Canoe (version) from 1993 is an enchanting example of a subject which has preoccupied the artist for more than 20 years. A single ghostly vessel seemingly hovers above the glassy surface of a pool of water and serves as a clear form amidst a contrastingly indistinct foreground. The colour palette of soft blue, icy white and organic green conjures the image of a cool wooded landscape, reminiscent of the surroundings of his father’s house in Ontario, Canada, where the artist spent much of his childhood. In its evocation of place, the painting is imbued with a sense of nostalgic reverie and conveys a distinctly romantic sensibility. Much of Doig’s work is typified by its atmosphere, which he cultivates through his distinctive intermingling of painterly textures and bleeding, diffuse colours. Speaking on the apparent intangibility of his work, Doig notes: ‘I am trying to create a numbness…I am trying to create something that is questionable, something that is difficult, if not impossible to put into words’ (the artist, quoted in Peter Doig: Cabins and Canoes, The Unreasonable Silence of the World, exh. cat., Faurschou Foundation, Beijing, 2017, p. 145).

    As a post-modern reworking of the traditional landscape painting, White Canoe (version) was not painted en plein air or taken from a study, but was instead loosely composed taken a film still taken from the classic horror film Friday the 13th. First used by Doig as a reference for painting in 1987, Doig was struck by the poignancy of the penultimate scene in which ‘Jason’ emerges from the water to grasp the only survivor, adrift in a solitary canoe, from behind, consequently dragging them into the depths of the icy lake. Speaking of the formative influence of the film on his work, Doig recalls: ‘I saw this scene and went out to the barn and made a painting of it that night…In fact it was the least horrifying moment of the film. It’s more like a romantic dream when you remove it from its context.’ (the artist, quoted in Peter Doig: Cabins and Canoes, The Unreasonable Silence of the World, exh. cat., Faurschou Foundation, Beijing, 2017, p. 20). Doig has revisited earlier painterly explorations of the still, as evident in the artist’s masterpiece White Canoe (1990-91), reworking the composition by almost entirely abstracting the lake and surrounding tree-lined perimeter in the present work. The trees and their mirrored reflections are rendered in large, thickly applied brushstrokes over flat planes of grey blue; these impressions evoke a dreamlike state. The discordantly bright and clear form of the canoe can be seen as a vessel, slipping seamlessly through states of consciousness. Through his handling of this image, Doig’s White Canoe (version) represents an unsettling binary between serenity and anxiety.

    In 1989, Doig completed a one year painting MA at Chelsea School of Art. Of this formative period Adrian Searle observed that ‘Doig discovered in this very short period of time…that paint is like mud and can be drawn out in to trails and strokes like dangling vines...It can make a clean white shape, like a canoe, or a broken inchoate mess of spatters…Paint can be like air or light, or solid as a bronze fire hydrant…It can be inchoate and formless, or lain on canvas like a row of bricks.’ (Adrian Searle, ‘A Kind of Blankness’, Peter Doig, London, 2007, p. 73). In White Canoe (version), Doig’s discovery and subsequent exploration of the versatility of oil paint is clearly demonstrated. The small composition is confidently and spontaneously worked, resulting in a multifaceted and recondite depiction of Doig’s atmospheric microcosm.

  • 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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White Canoe (version)

signed, titled and dated 'PETER DOIG Peter Doig "WHITE CANOE" (version)" '93' on the reverse
oil on canvas
20.5 x 25.5 cm (8 1/8 x 10 in.)
Painted in 1993.

£150,000 - 250,000 ‡♠

Sold for £175,000

Contact Specialist
Tamila Kerimova
Specialist, Head of Day Sale
+ 44 20 7318 4065

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

London Auction 8 March 2019