July 14, 2024


Yo Quiero Techno

Peter Doig at the Courtauld Gallery

3 min read
Peter Doig at the Courtauld Gallery

I visited the Courtauld Gallery to see the Peter Doig exhibition (which closes on 29th May) about two weeks ago. One of the reasons I’ve not written about seeing the exhibition before now is because I actually found it rather disappointing.

I’ve seen his artwork before and liked it – which is why I visited.

But in this exhibition there was little that I liked and much that felt like reworkings of stuff he’d done before – but less successfully

There is one really good painting in the show – and that’s the one of the skier. However that was about it for me.

Alpinist (2019-2022) by Peter Doig
pigment on linen

It’s a painting based on an old postcard, which was then changed (eg introduction of the harlequin suit) to make it a more monumental work.

I read the reviews of the exhibition beforehand which were almost universally were complimentary – so maybe I was disappointed because they’d built it up to be better than it is.

Gallery view of other paintings by Peter Doig

Simply put – I just didn’t get it. 

  • Making large paintings is what people do these days. Making large paintings does not make you better than everybody else.
  • Making paintings look brutal or about alienation is what some artists do – so what makes Doig better?
  • Making paintings out of photographs? Yes, happens a lot!

The reviewer who in my opinion got nearest to my response to the exhibition. was The Arts Desk review titled Peter Doig, Courtauld Gallery review – the good, the bad and the unfinished – with a strapline of

Paintings that run the gamut from the sublime to the banal

It turned out that the person who wrote it had taught him at the Chelsea College of Art

I once gave Peter Doig a tutorial, when he was a student at Chelsea College of Art. He had little to say about his strange images and I came away feeling I’d seen something unique, but was unable to tell if he was a very good painter or a very bad one.

I also visited the Peter Doig Etchings for Derek Walcott – and similarly came away underwhelmed.

I think the conclusion I’ve come to is that

  • Peter Doig is a painter who is perfectly capable of producing genuinely new and inspired – and does – now and again.
  • He is also a painter who can complete quite a lot of dross inbetween.

I’m not surprised. This is the way for many painters. It’s just that many painters have more sense than to show everything they’ve ever painted – even if it takes them years to finish it.

However, having come to the exhibition late, I could also judge the success of the exhibition (once I had left it) by the amount of goods for sale still left in the shop. 

Let’s just say there’s going to be an awful lot of cutprice catalogues very soon……

The public have spoken…..

PS I think I have at last worked out why so much contemporary art disappoints me. Those that are trying to be like Doig – given he fails to impress – cannot hope to make me happy.

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