'Paint is scrubbed over thin, the reflections in the surface half-drowned by an insistence on the factual matter of paint, which itself has both the wetness and transparency of water, as well as sitting on the surface of the painting in much the same way as rafts of weed and scum sit on the surface of a pond. There is a confusion of surface and depth, distance and proximity, materiality and illusion' (A. Searle, 'A Kind of Blankness' quoted in A. Searle et. al. (eds.), Peter Doig, London 2007, pp. 73-79).
Painted in 1999, Echo-Lake (Reflection) is an ethereal, dream-like work on paper by Peter Doig. It continues the theme of Doig's majestic painting Echo Lake (1998) held in the Tate Modern collection, London and is one of a select group of unique works on paper by the artist including Echo Lake (1999) currently held in the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Born out of a chilling sequence from Sean S. Cunningham's cult 1980s horror movie, Friday the 13th, Doig depicts a solitary man standing on the edge of the water, looking out into some vast imaginary space beyond the picture plane. Doig has often suggested that 'reflections function as entrances to other worlds' (P. Doig quoted in P. Bonaventura, 'Peter Doig: A Hunter in the Snow', in Artefactum, Autumn XI (53), 1994, pp. 12-15). In Echo-Lake (Reflection) the man's image shines up from the water's surface, like some mysterious passage into a watery realm. The painting empties the original film still of its cinematic melodrama, replacing it with a quiet yet stunning solitude. This silent atmosphere is captivating, the viewer becoming engrossed in his or her own memories, at the same time completing the painting's unspoken narrative. Carried out in an earthy, organic palette of raw umber, tawny yellow and rich brown, the artist has allowed the watercolours to gently bleed into one another, lending the painting an otherworldly quality. Resting on the knife's edge between figuration and abstraction, the soft, autumnal landscape melts away into horizontal planes of colour. Against this backdrop, the mans figure, arms gently resting upon his hips, radiates from the centre of the work. His torso appears brilliant in white, haloed by a chilling, spectral green and luminous purple.
Just like many of the artist's greatest paintings including Reflection (What does your soul look like), (1996), 100 Years Ago (2000) and Echo Lake (1998), Echo-Lake (Reflection) draws implicit connections between the seemingly limitless surface of water and that of painting. Whilst Gustav Klimt and Claude Monet focused upon the representation of images and the play of light upon water, Doig considers the properties of his medium and its essential proximity to water. Applied in thin, diluted washes to build up interlacing veils of colour, Echo-Lake (Reflection) draws ineluctable parallels with the watery surface of the lake. As Adrian Searle has so eloquently suggested, '...paint is scrubbed over thin, the reflections in the surface half-drowned by an insistence on the factual matter of paint, which itself has both the wetness and transparency of water, as well as sitting on the surface of the painting in much the same way as rafts of weed and scum sit on the surface of a pond. There is a confusion of surface and depth, distance and proximity, materiality and illusion' (A. Searle quoted in 'A Kind of Blankness', Peter Doig, London 2007, pp. 73-79).
Just as Edvard Munch's The Scream (1893) imbued the canvas with an air of anxiety, Doig's Echo-Lake (Reflection) takes on a dark, brooding register. For Doig, this atmosphere is something he proactively engenders with his haunting use of colour, freely applied paint and ambiguous narrative left open to interpretation. As the artist once explained,' there is something more primal about painting. In terms of my own paintings... they are totally non-linguistic. There is no textual support to what you are seeing. Often I am trying to create a 'numbness'. I am trying to create something that is questionable, something that is difficult, if not impossible, to put into words... I often use heightened colours to create a sense of the experience, or mood or feeling of being there... I think the paintings always refer back to a reality that we all have experience of... I am using... natural phenomena and amplifying them through the materiality of paint and the activity of painting' (P. Doig quoted in K. Scott, Peter Doig, exh. cat., Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, Vancouver 2001, pp. 15-17).