Line as Texture
PETER DOIG (1959-)
The Architects Home In The Ravine, 1991 (oil on canvas, 200x275cm.)
'The Architects Home In The Ravine' is an enchanting painting by Peter Doig based on photographs and childhood memories of Beaumont House, the home of the famous Canadian architect, Eberhard Zeidler. This is a vast postmodern landscape that draws on many different artistic influences and ideas. You can see its Canadian heritage in the art of Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven. The painting is as much about surface as it is about depth, recalling the woodland scenes of Paul Cézanne and Gustave Klimpt; it is as much about abstraction as it is about representation, evoking both the dense dribble and spatter of a Jackson Pollock and the isolation and emptiness of an Edward Hopper; and it is as much about the relationship between man and his environment, with nature reclaiming its own habitat as the architecture is menacingly encircled by the encroaching forest.
Detail of 'The Architects Home In The Ravine'
Viewed from a high eye-level, an impenetrable weave of frosted branches glisten with snow and hang like a veil, obscuring the ice-cold building and its frozen pool. If an artist from an earlier and more traditional era had painted this picture, he or she would have started with the distant features of the background, building the image layer upon layer until they finished in the foreground with the veil of branches. Doig, however, establishes this dense tracery of lines earlier in the painting process and uses it as a device to pull your eye to the surface of the work. He then begins to explore the expanse of that surface by painting between the branches to develop a rich patchwork of color and texture that focuses on the abstract and expressive qualities of the medium. 'The place is a kind of portal to possibilities in painting. The painting is what it becomes, and when I start I don’t know what that will be. That’s what makes the process so fascinating.'