Peter Doig's early life in Canada and the vast deserted landscapes of that country had a profound effect on his artistic vision. Here, man's insignificance in nature became abundantly clear in comparison, to say the man-made advanced capitalist landscape of London which the artist moved to in the 1980s. It is the dramatic contrasts between these two opposing habitats which combine powerfully in Doig's work. Highly influenced by the grand tradition of landscape painting in the canon of art history, from Peter Breughel and Edvard Munch to the Impressionists and the Canadian Group of Seven painters in the early 20th century, Doig mixes these inspirations with his passion for film, photography and music to create contemporary paintings of Post-Modern existence.
Based on a skiing holiday photograph in his extensive image archive, Olin MK4 takes as its subject one of the artist's best known motifs from which he has made several larger variations, each one using a different crop and colouration. As the smallest example, the present work was probably the first version he made. It possesses a filmic Edward Hopper-like tension whose ambiguous narrative is left tantalizingly out of the viewer's reach. As he has stated, "I think the way that the paintings come out is more a way of trying to depict an image that is not about a reality, but one that is somehow in between the actuality of a scene and something that is in your head." (Peter Doig in Matthew Higgs, Peter Doig – 20 Questions, London 2001, p. 15)
Doig has often referred to his paintings as flashbacks – a cinematic term that is played out in the present work by the featureless silhouetted figures and their other-worldly, nostalgic environment whose glowing forms and colours seem to breathe and coalesce into each other. Representative and abstract at the same time, Olin MK IV occupies a twilight zone of reality in which photo-album memory meets waking dream. The effect is one of eerie tranquillity - of a snowy idyll frozen under the bewitching spell of the artist's brush. Neither day nor night, the frozen serenity of its green-edged landscape is tinged with a foreboding sense of the unknown emanating from the luminous infeasibility of its palette. Inhabiting the rich seam between memory and imagination, Olin MK4 offers a profound investigation into painting's possibilities in a world suffused with photographic images.
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