Regular readers of this blog will know I am quite a Doig fan and going to see his show at the Werner Gallery has been on my list since Hugh Mendes tipped me off to its existence. One of my favourite paintings in Tate Modern is by him (above) .
The Werner Gallery is a very posh commercial gallery in Mayfair, it is on Upper Brook street and I missed it first time of trying as it looks not at all like a gallery. It is housed in a grand Georgian town house. You ring the bell and are admitted and then you ascend the grand stair case to the first floor where the gallery is, then descended it again to the ground floor for the galleries other two rooms.
The staff are quite welcoming though so it is only a slightly intimidating experience. You have to look hard at the discrete bronze door plaque to see they are there.
Anyway onto the paintings. The basic theme was big pieces and their preparation. There were two big works and then a number of smaller versions or studies that were their genesis. Genesis is an apposite word as there seems to be a strong, if subversive, religious theme. There is also often a homoerotic theme.
In the back room on the first floor is a large portrait of a lifeguard, in the background the lifeguard tower, the sea and off to one side a dark blue devil languishing on the ground (above). The lifeguard has a David like quality and I particularly like the way his legs and feed bleed out of the raw canvas. It is a painting that invites you to consider your own story. What has just happened?
On the wall next to it are various smaller versions of the central figure, my favourite of which is a dark figure with this dark orange aurora (above).
Opposite the large Davidic Lifeguard is this rather melancholic portrait of a man playing a guitar (above). I like the way he is framed by this ghostly tree that occasionally emerges into green. This is one of my favourite Doigish tricks, the spectral representation of nature.
This leads us nicely onto the first room where there are two example of this. One is a simple looking landscape. The grass looks like green crepe paper but it is the bare ghostly white trees like skeletal hands, very effectively contrasting with the dark sky (above).
On the opposite wall is a large painting of three odd figures on a night-time beach (above). They are odd figures, what looks like a hockey player, another figure all being filmed. The trees look like something from an Alien film, bulbous multi-coloured thing with these muted colours. The moon light is very impressive.
The other effect I really like is the treatment of the figure on the right (detail above). The head has a more abstract quality that reminds me of African sculpted heads. This is emphasised by the white outline around their head. It gives this observer a spiritual deific quality.
After you have finished upstairs you descend the carpeted stair case and in a wood panelled room at the back is a large portrait of lion (above). The lion looks defeated and like it has just escaped or more likely let out of the prison like building behind it.
On the left is this transparent guard like figure and behind him hazy buildings and sea front, a very Caribbean vista (detail above). It is a very effective piece and what really works for me is the transparent halo to the lion which help gives him his downbeaten air.
The last room is a series of smaller works. The lion appears again, as does the strange hockey player from the upstairs room. He appears in a quad of paintings my favourite of which is the pink and grey silhouette on the black background. This I think is what Doig does best, rendering things in this odd way.
My favourite work in this room is a ghostly, mouthless figure against very Doigish trees (above). It is a very good show. It is on until 17th February 2018. If you like Doig, you should totally go. I shall leave you with more lions.
William John Mackenzie
I am an artist with a specialism in landscapes and still life. My contact details are here.