Dating from 1998, Entrance is a painting on an intimate scale which was included in Peter Doig's seminal exhibition Blizard Seventy-Seven the same year. The exhibition, which was shown in the Kunsthalle, Kiel, the Kunsthalle Nürnberg and the Whitechapel Gallery, London, took its name from the famous blizzards of 1977 which had caused such havoc in Ontario as well as large swathes New York State. In the catalogue to the exhibition, various photographs were reproduced which continued this wintry theme, be it in the form of images of snow-flecked woodland, of ski resorts or, as was the case in the source image for Entrance, a deserted cityscape, upon which he also based the larger Entering a City of 1998-99. As we look at Entrance, which has closed in on one particular section of that photograph showing a group of railway tracks, an underpass and some buildings, that sense of a world grinding to a halt is evoked in its stillness and the absence of people, which fills the picture with the atmosphere of the uncanny that so often permeates Doig's greatest works.
Doig's paintings often give the deliberate impression that they form part of a narrative, yet one to which we are not party. They appear like the discarded snapshots of a stranger or a film still from a movie we have not seen. They seem decontextualised yet redolent with significance, as is the case here. Doig himself has explained, 'I never want to be too specific about memory. I want to use it in a more general way - sometimes it is autobiographical, but not explicitly so. I use photographs simply as a way of imaging memory. The photograph acts as a starting point. It is in the actual act of making a painting that invention takes over (Doig, quoted in A. Searle, K. Scott & C. Grenier, Peter Doig, London, 2007, p. 132). Doig's works are filled with a pervasive nostalgia that is heightened by his own intervention. Painting, after all, is a different medium from the more scientific photography. In Entrance, the artist has added his own subjective layers of interpretation through the colours and brushstrokes that conjure the scene.
By exploiting the triggers of atmosphere and interpretation that are intrinsic in a figurative image, and especially Doig's, Entrance allows the artist to examine the entire nature of painting. The artist himself has explained that painting is 'form and illusion in space (Doig, quoted in R. Tand (ed.), 'Peter Doig and Chris Ofili in Conversation, pp. 113-122, Peter Doig, exh.cat., J. Nesbitt (ed.), London, 2008, p. 118). This is illustrated in Entrance by the appearance of the chalky lines with which he has rendered the rails that dominate the canvas, which become almost abstract in their regularity. With this device, Entrance allows Doig to explore and expose the way, within the confines of a two-dimensional canvas, the artist can conjure evocative illusions of space, of form and of narrative.