Peter Doig: Early Works

  • Art
  • Drawing and illustration
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‘At the Edge of Town’, 1986-1988

Image © Peter Doig.
Photography © Thomas Mueller.
Courtesy Michael Werner Gallery, New York and London

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‘I think it’s time…’, 1982-1983

Image © Peter Doig.
Photography © Thomas Mueller.
Courtesy Michael Werner Gallery, New York and London

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‘Barn Horse’, 1986

Image © Peter Doig.
Photography © Thomas Mueller.
Courtesy Michael Werner Gallery, New York and London

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‘Contemplating Culture’, 1985

Image © Peter Doig.
Photography © Thomas Mueller.
Courtesy Michael Werner Gallery, New York and London

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‘Red Sienna’, 1985

Image © Peter Doig.
Photography © Thomas Mueller.
Courtesy Michael Werner Gallery, New York and London

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'We do it right. It's good lickin finger', 1983

Image © Peter Doig.
Photography © Thomas Mueller.
Courtesy Michael Werner Gallery, New York and London

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When Michael Werner opened this show of Peter Doig’s early paintings and works on paper at his Manhattan gallery late last year, London art lovers came down with that rarest of afflictions – city envy. In part because Doig, painter of lush, mysterious (and famously expensive) landscapes cut his creative teeth at London’s best art schools. This transfer, then, to Werner’s Mayfair space is a welcome homecoming. But it’s not exactly a revelation. Despite the ‘early’ of the title, these aren’t the fevered jottings of adolescence (though there’s a lovely diaristic drawing in which Doig laments his premature hair loss). Nor are they proof of a born genius. The bulk of the work on show comes from the mid-1980s, when the artist, then in his mid-twenties, was studying hard for his BA at Central Saint Martins.

The show is a snapshot of an extraordinarily fertile period. Incandescently ambitious, Doig criss-crosses the Atlantic in search of inspiration, coming up with images of cowboys, the Manhattan skyline, ancient gods (from the National Gallery) and boozy Covent Garden nights, all sewn together in styles that recall the big guns of the era – Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring and AR Penck – along with artists who were all the rage at the time but aren’t much thought about today, such as Rainer Fetting and Malcolm Morley. With their scattershot references and busy surfaces, Doig’s monumental paintings wind up looking overcooked. He’s better on paper, where his laidback line suits his stream-of-consciousness subject matter.     

Doig’s work starts to get really interesting when it stops resembling the sort of thing a switched-on student might make (switched-on students take note). Like ‘At the Edge of Town’ (1986-’88, pictured), which takes on a strange, dematerialised atmosphere all of its own. It’s a style Doig perfected during the next couple of years. In fact, the show might better be called ‘Peter Doig: BC’ – before Chelsea College of Art and Design, from which Doig emerged in 1990 with an MA, fully formed as the painter we revere today.

Martin Coomer

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Karolina A

Michael Werner Gallery tempted me to check out their latest exhibition of Peter Doig early work yesterday.


I first became fascinated by Doig’s work while studying in ArtEZ, Holland. I think it must have been 2006. 


His painting was absolutely fresh in a mystical, otherworldly way which every time since makes me want to just somehow get on the other side of the painting and discover the dreamy landscapes on my own. Then there’s the colour which brings to mind Chagall and Gauguin, different textures, playfulness and sort of innocence mixed with nostalgia. 

His embodies a true painter’s mind.


The most captivating aspect of his painting is the air of ‘unfinished-finished’ result, fun and even awkwardness. It seems Doig is not afraid to experiment, discover, change and reshape… consequently revealing paintings most vibrant and full-bodied.


This, I think relates to his ‘Early Works’ exhibition quite well- the selection of paintings and drawings unveils the ability to challenge the boundaries, experiment with different range of techniques and styles (especially many references to pop art appear). 

His sources range from music, cinema, photography and popular culture imagery just as in his painterly language of today. 


This exhibition is a unique and fascinating experience. It uncovers Peter Doig- one of the most accomplished contemporary artists- and offers the viewer to follow his path and sneak a peek at the staring point of his career. Instead of looking at the ‘ready product’ we become spectators set in time, already knowing what awaits us at the end of Doig’s artistic journey.

It is a confession of an artist making the banality of a phrase ‘practice makes perfect’ happen.


We can notice the making of his painterly language in ‘At the Edge of Town’. The structure of landscape, distinctive horizon line with outlines of trees against the cloudy, purplish sky. The painting has this haunting vibe to it, so present in Doig’s current work.


see the full review http://www.karolinaalbricht.com/?pl_news,22