PETER DOIG at the Power Plant (231 Queen's Quay West) to March 3. 416-973-4949. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
like a wandering backpacker,painter Peter Doig travels through the landscapes of art history, collecting a bit of pointillism here, some Pollock there, a handful of Edward Hopper and a good helping of the Group of Seven.His ultra-landscapes -- big, gaudy oils with cryptic titles and hints of doom -- wow their audience with their monumental presence.
Though the British-based artist grew up in rural Ontario, whose landscape continues to provide fodder for his paintings, and has a hefty international reputation, he's had surprisingly few shows in Canada. So it's a real treat to see these dozen works, painted between 1993 and 99, on view in a gallery with the wall space to do them justice.
Painting from photographs, postcards, magazine images, album covers and film stills, Doig has the rare ability to make paintings that look good from any distance. The billowing white shape of a child's snow angel in Ski Jacket becomes a snowy hill up close, and the bright dots emerge as skiers. An otherwise sparely painted canvas offers up one pale pink tree painted so thickly that it seems encrusted with bubble gum.
Something of a guru in the tradition of painterly experimentation, Doig surprises with his agile hopping between styles. A monochromatic painting of a snowboarder is almost abstract in its simplicity. Across from it, a picture of a ski jumper comes out of nowhere with its clumsy, illustrative technique.
And to make it clear he's not painting sitting on a mountainside, Doig loads his landscapes with pop-culture references.
A shadowy building-in-the-woods scene is called Cabin Essence after the Beach Boys song. And in Canoe Lake, we're left wondering whether the waterlogged green painting of a body in a canoe refers to the horror movie Friday The 13th or to the lake where Tom Thomson mysteriously drowned.