Peter Doig (London, UK)

Ski Jacket


Not on display

Peter Doig (London, UK) born 1959
Oil paint on 2 canvases
Support, right: 2953 × 1604 × 33 mm
support, left: 2950 × 1900 × 33 mm
Purchased with assistance from Evelyn, Lady Downshire's Trust Fund 1995


Ski Jacket is a large painting in diptych format. The two parts, of the same height but different width, are joined at the approximate centre of the image, the right side being narrower than the left. The two parts mirror each other inexactly around the central axis constituted by the join. Doig created the image depicted in Ski Jacket from a photograph of learner skiers on a Japanese mountain, centering the painting on a dense clump of dark green pine trees that straddles the join. On the right side of the painting white, geometric buildings are partially concealed behind a sparser group of trees. Above these, at the top right side, a triangular formation partly covered in white evokes a mountain peak. At the bottom, in the foreground, a different kind of tree has been painted in a lighter green. Tiny human figures in brightly coloured clothes of the type usually worn by skiers are dotted all over the canvas. Horizontal streaks of white paint represent the snow covering the landscape on both sides of the painting. Applied in thin washes, the paint has been allowed to dribble down the canvas, creating a blurred effect. The left side is dominated by areas of pink and golden yellow, from which more white geometric buildings and the odd pine tree stand out bleakly. Further outlines of fir trees painted in golden brown suggest the fading or degeneration of an old print, also evoked by the abstract areas of paint above them. Large patches of white above the buildings – describing clouds or more snow – echo the triangular mountain peak of the right side. In the foreground, a large yellow area is broken up by patches of white in which little human figures are roughly painted. Doig has commented:

Ski Jacket ... is about the fumbling and awkwardness when learning to ski, how when you start skiing you slip all over the place, yet over a period of time you learn to cope and eventually manage to ski. Ski Jacket depicts beginner skiers. If you look carefully you can see that they are all groping to stay on their feet, they are in very awkward positions, and whilst there are other things going on in that painting, that sense of awkwardness was one of the things that attracted me to that image. And I think painting is a bit like that, it takes time to actually take control of the ‘greasy’ stuff – paint. But I have also used the way you perceive things when you are in the mountains; for example when you are feeling warm in an otherwise cold environment, and how the light is often extreme and accentuated by wearing different coloured goggles. I’ve used that as a way of accentuating the colours in the paintings, to the extent that they appear seemingly psychedelic. There used to be these rose-tinted goggles that made everything look as pink as cotton candy.

(Quoted in Scott, p.20.)

Doig has made several paintings depicting snow, inspired by seeing the colours in snowscapes painted by Claude Monet (1840-1926) towards the end of his life, in an exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts, London in 1990. He has said: ‘I often paint scenes with snow because snow somehow has this effect of drawing you inwards and is frequently used to suggest retrospection and nostalgia and make-believe’ (quoted in Bonaventura, p.13). He spent most of his childhood and adolescence in rural Quebec where snow sports were common activities. His first painting of snow, Pink Snow 1994 (Ole Faarup, Denmark), depicts a figure in a heavy pink snowfall. It was followed in the mid 1990s by a series of paintings depicting snow sports.

Mirroring and reflection are common compositional devices in Doig’s paintings. Pink Mountain 1996 (Bailey Collection, Toronto) also uses the diptypch format but without the mirroring effect. In Ski Jacket the variations in the two sides emphasise the artificiality of representational painting and its relationship to printing and other forms of mechanical reproduction. Doig paints from many sources, usually originating in a photograph which he then manipulates by photocopying, drawing or painting over and photocopying again. He paints landscapes but his interest in the landscape is as an experience or mood, rather than the depiction of an actual scene. His representations of nature always contain evidence of human presence, often in uneasy relation to the natural setting. He has explained that ‘a lot of the work deals with peripheral or marginal sites, places where the urban world meets the natural world. Where the urban elements almost become, literally, abstract devices.’ (Quoted in Scott, p.19.) A desire to show the buildings within the landscape was another contributing factor to his choice of image in Ski Jacket. Denuded of trees, the area around them has a bleak, barren quality, which undercuts the cozy atmosphere depicted in other parts of the painting.

Further reading:
Kitty Scott, Peter Doig, exhibition catalogue, Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, Vancouver, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Power Plant, Toronto 2001, pp.7-10, 12, 20, reproduced (colour) p.32.
Peter Doig: Blizzard seventy-seven, exhibition catalogue, Kunsthalle zu Kiel, Kunsthalle
Nurnberg, Whitechapel Art Gallery, London 1998, reproduced (colour) pp.94-5, pl.13.
Paul Bonaventura, ‘Peter Doig: A Hunter in the Snow’, Artefactum, autumn 1994, XI, 53, pp.12-15.

Elizabeth Manchester
October 2002/January 2007

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Display caption

Ski Jacket was painted from a newspaper photograph of learner skiers on a Japanese mountain. The painted scene is mirrored imperfectly on both panels, producing a disorientating and dreamlike landscape. The sense of unreality is increased by Doig’s choice of colours: frosted pinks and golds. Doig often paints snow scenes because ‘snow somehow has the effect of drawing you inwards and is frequently used to suggest retrospection and nostalgia and make-believe’. But the sugary colour has an intensity which is disquieting.

Gallery label, February 2016

Does this text contain inaccurate information or language that you feel we should improve or change? We would like to hear from you.


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