Cobourg 3+1 more, a bubble of magic realism by Peter Doig

‘It’s this place of the imagination as much as a real place… the paint is fluid, it resists you a bit, but it flows and curdles in places. It’s infinitely malleable, like memory… ‘ says Adrian Searle when discussing  the landscape in Cobourg 3+1 more, one of Peter doig’s famous artworks , realized in 1994, this painting represents Cobourg town in Canada where Doig spent his childhood with his family, the painting takes its name from it.

The Scottish born painter, grew up first in Trinidad and later in different cities in Canada (Montreal, Quebec, Ontario), where the blurred and snowy landscapes will be depicted later as memories through his canvases. 

He studied in London where, after his graduation from Chelsea College Art school, received two prestigious prizes including the Whitchappel artist prize. One exhibition calls another one, in major institutions including  the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris,  Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Tate Britain London…and a few years later, he became one of the most renowned living figurative painters.

The Cobourg 3+1 more is such a complexe painting in my sens. The falling snow just pull up a sort of screen blurred line in front of your eyes, it’s impenetrable, it’s sketchy, gets unbalanced from here and there,  but the blue lake  goes on in a profound line which is a part of a deeply moving continuity, the more you look at it, the more, it gets sens, such a declarative state,  more than that, it’s a performance. The colors are beyond rich, we feel the influence of Monet, but also the way he always sets a  human being confronting nature reminds me so much of Brueghel’s work, it’s more evoking in another of his canvases (Ski jacket 1994), which is from the same year as the Cobourg 3+1 more.

Nevertheless, doig’s humbleness made him say in an interview with Jasper Sharp, in a contemporary art talk convention, that he always gets honored to be compared to such iconic painters, and that he thinks his works are so far from being  finished compared to Brueghel’s ones. And he always gets a little bit embarrassed when discussing the ridiculously high price of his sold paintings, The Architect’s Home in the Ravine, was sold for $12 million at a London auction, just to cite one of them. 

We can say, by far that he deserves such an intense alacrity and enthusiasm of massive crowds for his work, especially for having such a humble creativity.   

I don’t think, I always get the sens of, how a painting can actually touch my soul in such a different way from another one, but I feel undeniably  connected to the Cobourg 3+1 more. You all probably experienced this feeling of a global and deeper vision that you have when you stay out of something, move a step backwards and you get to see behind the simple visuals, you hear the sounds in a clearer way,  you get to observe all these connections, the things going on between the layers, the burst of minime details  in your face while being so lost in the middle of all the others. 

It feels like, something supposed to be anecdotal  which initially, substantiate a memory of youth, embodies so much more that it became infinite, so that we ‘can look at it for days’

Doig has a remarkable talent for capturing a stealthy moment in the most living way possible. 

I see so many things behind this canvas, and most of them are probably made of my imagination, my mind instantly starts creating something out of it, and this is how I know that something special is happening. 


        Jonathan Jones said about him: « Amid all the nonsense, impostors, rhetorical bullshit and sheer trash that pass for art in the 21st century, Doig is a jewel of genuine imagination, sincere work and humble creativity. »

And I couldn’t agree more with that.


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