Born in Edinburgh in 1959, Doig grew up in Canada and came to study at St Martin’s School of Art, London, 1980–3. He went back to Canada in 1986, but kept his studio in King’s Cross, and returned to London in 1989 to study at Chelsea School of Art. This exhibition begins with the paintings Doig produced at that time: they were a breakthrough in his own practice, and quite unlike anything else in the London art scene of the early 1990s. Whilst this confounded some observers, by the mid-1990s he had attracted national and international acclaim.
Throughout the show we see how Doig has continually challenged his own approach to painting and picture-making. A selection of works on paper shows the unpredictable evolution of his subjects and compositions, and the way in which themes appear and reappear. The exhibition traces the development of his painting across two decades and comes right up to date with a selection of new work from his studio in Trinidad, where he has lived since 2002.
Most of the paintings in this room were made when Doig returned to London to study painting at Chelsea School of Art, 1989–90. Disregarding the prevailing trend for a cool, processed aesthetic, he made oil paintings of landscape subjects which were disarmingly romantic and vernacular in character.
It was a conscious effort to find his own new approach to painting: ‘Since I had just come back from Canada and was again searching for a subject, I started making these quite homely paintings, paintings of quite modest subjects’. Redolent of his Canadian upbringing, these landscapes were not direct representations but fictionalised images he carried in his mind: ‘I want it to be more of an imaginary place – a place that’s somehow a wilderness’.