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Peter Doig, Paintings, Michael Werner Gallery, review: a magnificent testament to an enchantingly quirky artist

In Peter Doig’s painting Lion (Fire Down Below), a lion has gone downtown. It’s standing on a kerb in front of a lemon-yellow wall, by a lime-green door that’s rendered with childlike simplicity. The lion’s head is a febrile mass of sinuous pink and white strokes. But there are no shadows anywhere, and the “road” is a colour field, a black zone that slides towards the coast. Look, says the picture, at how the scene is bright with life! Look, it simultaneously says: they’re only surfaces made of paint.

Lion is among 14 works in Paintings, Doig’s show of new work (all dated 2019) at Michael Werner Gallery in Mayfair. The exhibition is, in a word, magnificent: it testifies to how enchanting Doig’s work can be. His public profile isn’t large, though he once held the auction record for a living European artist: White Canoe was sold in 2007 for $11.3 million. He often suffers the label of “painter’s painter”, because his canvases aren’t amenable to paraphrase; they don’t exactly have “things to say”. The closest Doig came to public acclaim was a nomination for the Turner Prize, back in 1994...

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