The show at Tate Britain was amazing. I really have a hard time believing that one person has the abilities that Doig has with a brush. He does things in painting that serve the image and frustrate it at the same time, allowing you the pure joy of looking at a painted surface. The paintings are beautiful, tactile, haptic, and strange. At the same time, they have the quality of dreams; that specificity that an image has when you are between being awake and being asleep. Something concrete collides with something inchoate. The connection between the two opens up a space of possibility and excitement. This is beyond some of the silly notions that people have about abstraction and realism. ALL PAINTING IS ABSTRACT. What Doig does is work with illusion and substance and surface. He is really making paintings on the edge of what painting can be. All of this without compromising a sense of connection to a place, be it Canada or Trinidad.
The other thing I love is his complete irresponsibility in the use of photographs. Sure he gets ideas from them, but he is perfectly free to invent and redeploy the images as he sees fit. Too many artists get so caught up in what a photo is that they just end up reproducing a reproduction of reality, as if that is enough of a new conceptual trope to sustain the work (Ever hear of Warhol, Richter?). Rudolf Stengel's paintings as awesome as they are fall into this trap. "WOW! It looks just like a photograph!" In 2008 is that enough? Is that even a compliment?
Doig uses photography as drawing material. He translates the photograph through his hand. This is part of what makes his work so amazing - his alteration of the source material and commitment to drawing through an idea. The photo is a schema or a plan, not a goal.
I have to add to all of this that he is quite simply one of the most beautiful men I have ever laid eyes on. The video they showed at the exhibition reminded me of his soft spoken confidence and seriousness about his practice. It also showed the sparkle of a jester in his eyes. It brought back the generosity and openness of his Skowhegan lecture last year.
I hope he keeps painting for a long long time. As long as this guy is working no one needs to worry about the state of the art.