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Essay by Lynne Green

Essay by John
Russell Taylor

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Selected Quotes

"Maxwell Doig is an artist in mid-career whose work has attracted critical attention since his first solo exhibitions in the early 1990s. There is broad agreement about specific aspects of his practice among a number of commentators and critics, testament to the quality and consistency of his output; these include his skilful deployment of materials and techniques, the focussed range of his subject matter and the relevance of the work of other artists, chiefly painters, some obvious and some less so, as visual stimuli.

Where Doig’s painting succeeds above and beyond an obvious facility  with materials and techniques is in his choice of what to represent and what not to represent within a system that gives him freedom rather than acting as a restraint. This can be identified as decorum – a quality of consistency and correctness in the characterization of the human figure and its physical setting, its reciprocal relation to objects in the real world, represented here by subjects drawn from the built environment. Doig’s achievement, over his whole career, is to have identified the best possible way to represent a particular subject, immaculately conceived, in its particular context.
 

In his architectural subjects the focus of his vision on the particular and potentially overlooked detail has an earlier model in the urban images of the eighteenth century painter Thomas Jones.  In terms of mood a different sense of wistfulness is identifiable through his use of figures not engaging with the viewer, in intimate settings, which brings to mind both Jan Vermeer and Edward Hopper. His treatment of the individual figure and restrained, yet telling, use of colour also suggest, as previously identified in critical discussion of Doig’s painting, a debt to Andrew Wyeth."

ROBERT HALL - 2015
Art Historian and Curator

 

 

"Having embraced the figurative during a period when the visual arts favoured the abstract, the conceptual and a range of new media, Doig has achieved a distinctive voice in the depiction of the human figure. It is no easy task to bring something fresh and vital to a painterly tradition that has its roots in the Renaissance and its rediscovery of Classical art. There is no doubt, however, that over the last decade Doig has produced art of arresting vision and virtuosity."

"Tellingly, at this early stage in his career, the artist recognised the importance of his sensing the pose in his own body: for [he says] “somehow the drawing would be more convincing because it was more felt” (the italics are mine). This physical (and thus empathetic) identification with his subject may be a key to the artist having achieved, as his work developed and matured, a deepening sense of authenticity: a genuine originality and potency."

"The detail of his depiction is the result not only of his obvious delight in the nature of stuff (in surfaces and textures, in fabric and skin, in the commonplace materials with which we engage), but also of his increasing mastery of his media and painterly techniques."

"Doig’s intense scrutiny of the world, the sensitivity of his interpretation and articulation of its richness and variety, is startling in its veracity and bravura. This is painting that requires of us considered attention. It repays time spent: in order to discover its qualities and its secrets. The artist’s transformation of the everyday is based on a profound concern with the human condition. While they are real people, his figures transcend the specifics of identity to become emblematic and allegorical: symbolic of us all. In our increasingly frenetic lives, Maxwell Doig offers us a rare opportunity to take the  “time to stand and stare”. "

LYNNE GREEN - 2015
Art Historian and Curator


 

"In Doig’s case, the single figure seen from above has become a leitmotif in his work. The single figures are imbued with a sense of solitariness, not loneliness or isolation. They are enclosed and sealed within the ‘safe’ confines of the picture plane and its rectangular frame. Self-contained, they can get on with their own thoughts behind their hats, their newspapers, or their averted gaze, while the artist orders the structure and form of the painting around them. Their stillness and quietude means that rather than standing out from their surroundings, they begin to merge with them, opening and folding like beautiful moths on the bark of a tree."

JO MANBY - 2013
Art Critic and Writer

 

 

"Looking at Maxwell Doig's paintings is an experience in modern classicism. We are seduced by the carefully ordered compositions,  by the quality of light and his masterly use of technique. The paintings are quiet but have an immediate effect and seem to grow in intensity with prolonged viewing. They have the feel of old colour photographs, faded and with the look of over enlarged grain. However, this is not painting which is trying to look like a photograph, he does not give you everything he sees, he chooses judiciously and pulls you into the work showing a calm relaxed pose, a reclining figure behind, a body dissolving in  peat saturated water. Each figure study has a calming effect, no shock value here. This is work which is as welcome as a windy hillside or a deserted beach. Somewhere to stop talking and just look."

ANDREW SANDERSON - 2014

 

 

“The art of Maxwell Doig is immediately recognisable as his, not only because of his very individual deployment of various painterly techniques, but also, primarily indeed, because of his distinctive vision.  Such skill in purely representational painting is rare indeed these days, but one does not win the Villiers David Prize, as Doig did in 1997, for skill alone.  What makes Doig stand out, then and now, is his visions of life itself.  As he puts it, “In an age when everything is moving so fast, I’m interested in portraying stillness and quiet”  And who, in the light of Vermeer and Hammersmith, can argue with that?”

JOHN RUSSELL TAYLOR – 2006
Art Critic and Writer

 

 

“Doig’s work is far from impervious to change, and if the following ten years are as varied and productive as the last decade, this exhibition will mark the emergence of a distinct and compelling painter.”

CHARLOTTE MULLINS – 1997
Art Critic, Writer and Broadcaster

 

 

“The single figures in these monotypes struggle to winch up bundles of oars or manoeuvre pairs against gravity.  The images are often large but never cluttered because already he is concerned with composition: the bent figures, the clashing diaganols of the oars, and the calm shapes of up-ended boats maintain a taut balance.  Acid yellows and blues prevent them from being either illustrations or very comfortable to contemplate.  … Like Vaughan he has an ascetic outlook, a rather narrow colour range and a concern with edge and structure which will keep the emotional temperature of his pictures cool.”

MALCOLM YORKE – 1991
Writer and Artist

 

 

“There is a time when an artist feels ready to exhibit his work, to share his vision with others.  We may spend a few minutes in the gallery looking at it and then we decide whether to stay or move on.  The decision to remain and contemplate the world of Maxwell Doig would be a wise one. … The drawing are often in mixed media using print making techniques and then overworked with watercolour, gouache and chalk.  There is an oriental subtlety in the quality of the line, a sensual line that reminds me of Brett Whiteley.  He is an artist at the beginning of his career but already we can see him shaping his world, forming his language.  Maxwell is excited by the world and its wonders and his developing vision will increasingly enrich our experience.  Stay and contemplate his work.  It will reward and surprise you.”

DAVID BLACKBURN – 1990
Artist and Friend