"Anyone who has ever been to Toronto, or lived in Toronto, would know this tunnel. You see it off the edge of the highway as you are coming in the city but then it gets graffiti'd and repainted, and the rainbow changes..." (Interview with Peter Doig at Tate Britain, 1 March 2008).
The Country Rock series is a quintessential example of Peter Doig's style of magical realism. He depicts recognizable imagery, but distorts the scene by making landscapes more desolate, roads more solitary and buildings more threatening. The result is an image that is simultaneously memory and fantasy, public and private and altered by the artist's own personal experiences.
In a literal sense, the present painting on paper depicts a subway entrance located off the highway and painted to look like a rainbow by amateur graffiti artists. Country Rock, however, is not just a painting of a landscape but a snapshot of a state of mind. The representation is not of one location, rather, it is many locations, somewhere real and invented, or perhaps misremembered as the artist has chosen to omit a time of the day or season. Doig has created a mood, one of childhood remembrance, nostalgia and melancholia: the painting is a memory or a souvenir, a memento past fictions and realities.
The formal qualities of Doig's work are of equal importance and help to enhance the ethos of the work. The horizontal bands create a taut composition, thus asserting the primacy of the painted surface. The brushstrokes of Country Rock force the eye to glide from left to right and back again, but then are interrupted by the entrance to the subway; a black hole, a flat, creepy eye, a break in reality, like Alice's rabbit hole. The artist, then, has further transformed the tunnel into a kind of sign, a worm-hole between the surface and the imaginary space beyond it. Doig has created a painting of duality in which reality is there and not there at the same time, always a hundred years ago, yet also always now.