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Faurschou Foundation’s recently opened exhibition for the Scottish painter Peter Doig will knock the wind out of your lungs if you let it – praise we rarely use for exhibitions of contemporary oil painting. On a macro level, one can’t help but marvel at Doig’s technical virtuosity, the way he breezily moves across the history of Modern paint and makes each mode his own. Traces of 19th-century Impressionism and Expressionism, 20th-century Mondrian grid-ism and Abstract Expressionism of both the Pollock and Rothko strains echo and counter-punch across the gallery space. But Doig is no mere student, and some of his aesthetic references seem more predictive than historical. A few of the paintings in this marvellous show artificially recreate the look of decomposing celluloid, a sort of high-art proxy for the now ubiquitous Instagram filter.
Doig is as expressive and emotive with centimetre-thick impasto as he is with two-tone, flat wood lacquer, but his subjects largely remain the same: grid façades, reflective surfaces of water and glass, and the eponymous cabins and canoes. The intentional homogeneity of the subject matter belies the dazzling diversity of Doig’s style. Zooming in on any one painting reveals a small universe: watercolour drips or diaphanous tonal planes or zags cut into the paint itself, all melting into fine abstractions made with almost microscopic attention to detail.
Faurschou has tastefully given the paintings ample space to breathe, and they feel alive in the manner of an abandoned building. Where there are figures in Doig’s canvases, they’re barely there, more mist than flesh. By the end, the accumulated, petty grandeur of all those cabins and canoes hangs in the mind’s eye with the haunting ephemerality and unassailable weight of memory itself.