Peter Doig - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale London Friday, March 3, 2023 | Phillips

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  • Untitled (HIGH-WAY 3)  is a delicately charming example from the output of Peter Doig’s preoccupation with a view of the rainbow tunnel off the Don Valley Parkway in Toronto. The railway underpass, painted, with a vibrant mural by 16-year-old Berg Johnson in 1972, is a noticeable fixture for anyone commuting in and out of the city and inspired a series of works from three monumental paintings to etchings, watercolours, and drawings between the years 1998 and 2000. Each iteration is unique in its rendering and colour but is based on the same view of the tunnel, as seen from a car window on the six-lane motorway, the composition bisected by the low white railings, the tarmac road below and the dense shrubland and distant houses above. 


    The Don Valley Parkway, Toronto, Canada. Image: © John Twynam /

    In the present work, Doig has utilised the rare approach of overpainting a photographic print with oil and acrylic. The road, railings and rainbow are thickly covered with opaque, assertive brushstrokes. Whereas the undergrowth surrounding the tunnel is dusted with a translucent mauve, applied with vigorous and spiky enthusiasm, the green from the original image permeating through and suggesting depth and dimension. The trees in the background are left virtually untouched, except for the hint of green and purple, which glow at the boundary where they meet the sky and evince a hazy quality to the scene, reminiscent of a vignette.  

    “A lot of the works deal with peripheral or marginal sites, places where the urban world meets the natural world. Where the urban elements almost become, literally, abstract devices. There are a lot of ‘voids’ in the paintings. A lot of the paintings portray a sense of optimism that can often be read as being a little desperate, like the image of a rainbow painted around the entrance to an underpass.”
    —Peter Doig

    Transience and memory are two themes that are frequently and recurrently observed in Doig’s work. In all of the many media incorporated in his practise, from layers of glazes, diluted watercolour and coloured pencil to paint applied with a spray gun, there is a continuous impression of haziness. Richard Schiff describes “We feel that we would discern more of the true view if only we were to look more closely, as if an increase in our attentiveness would cause the various qualities of light to focus. Whatever else it may be, a painting by Peter Doig is a lure to endless looking. Look too long, too hard, and eyes will glaze just as pigments do.”i This illusion of shifting and blurring within Doig’s paintings can be related to the sensation of viewing a scene from a car window, moving at speed – as is the viewer’s perspective for Untitled (HIGH-WAY 3) and the other works in the series. This very choice of composition confirms its transience and places the viewer where they are destined to glimpse this rainbow tunnel only for a few seconds.

    “…people have confused my paintings with being just about my own memories. Of course, we cannot escape these. But I am more interested in the idea of memory itself.”
    —Peter Doig

    The notion of transitoriness in Doig’s oeuvre is intrinsically linked to memory. As humans we recall things which are no longer there, our memories awarding them permanence, but only as glimpses altered by our recollection. These memories are often hazy and constantly evolving, not dissimilar from the effect of observing a painting by the artist. Doig’s practise is rooted in the study of photographic source material, both personal and collected but his treatment of these images often leaves the resulting scene only loosely recognisable. Often re-worked over and over again, each work creates an entirely unique and new perspective on the original scene, in the same way that one moment may be recalled entirely differently by two separate viewers. It has been remarked upon that Doig’s life has mirrored the transient and evolving nature of his work. Born in Scotland, the artist’s youth was spent living between, London, Canada and Trinidad, places along with Germany he has revisited and lived again throughout his career. Works such as Untitled (HIGH-WAY 3), serve to illustrate the blending of personal experience and objective fascination within the artist’s working practise.



    i Richard Schiff, ‘Drift’, Peter Doig, 2011, New York, p. 303

    • Provenance

      Bremen Landesbank
      Private Collection, Berlin
      Cornette de Saint Cyr, Paris, 13 April 2021, lot 50
      Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Berlin, Contemporary Fine Arts, Country- Rock, 6 February - 20 March 1999
      The Dallas Museum of Art; Vero Beach, The Gallery at Windsor; Toronto, The Art Gallery of Ontario, Peter Doig, Works on Paper, 12 September 2005 - 18 June 2006, no. 73, p. 167 (illustrated, p. 84)

    • Literature

      Beatrix Ruf, Peter Doig. Version, exh. cat., Kunsthaus Glarus, Glarus, 1999, p. 42 (illustrated)
      Adrian Searle, Kitty Scott and Catherine Grenier, Peter Doig, London and New York, 2007, p. 152 (illustrated)

    • 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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Untitled (HIGH-WAY 3)

signed, titled, inscribed and dated 'for Contemporary Fine ARTS BERLIN "COUNTRY ROCK" '99 Peter Doig' on the reverse of the paper
oil and acrylic on photographic print laid down on paper
21 x 29.5 cm (8 1/4 x 11 5/8 in.)
Executed in 1999.

Full Cataloguing

£60,000 - 80,000 ‡ ♠

Sold for £114,300

Contact Specialist

Simon Tovey

Specialist, Associate Director, Head of Day Sale, 20th Century & Contemporary Art
+44 20 7318 4084

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

London Auction 3 March 2023