Review: The art and mystery of Maxwell Doig at 108

Artist Maxwell Doig at 108 Fine Art gallery in Harrogate.
Artist Maxwell Doig at 108 Fine Art gallery in Harrogate.

By Weekend Editor Graham Chalmers

In a fascinating evening for art lovers, Maxwell Doig was the subject of the latest Artist’s Evening at 108 Fine Art.

Having arrived in person at the Harrogate gallery in a dark, swish leather jacket, he guided guests round the stylish rooms of 108 Fine Art.

Well known for his portrayal of solitary figures, swimmers, lone individuals in front of boats, Maxwell gave a generous insight into his work and its distinctive use of light and tone – as well as his unconventional use of viewpoints.

The artist has travelled and exhibited worldwide, earning his position as an artist of great integrity and of international repute.

Prompted by sometimes provocative questions from the assmbled crowd, some of the chat was to be expected - the type of paper he uses, his use of acrylics and washes.

But some of his answers were also surprising, as well as entertaining.

He admitted that almost all his canvases are constructed initially round vertical lines, a habit he picked up while studying ‘the basics’ at Slade.

Combined with his use of large slabs of colour on his abstract backgrounds, it partially explains the occasional reference from art critics to Rothko influence, though there’s hints of Hockney and Bacon, too.

So great is his passion for the vertical, Maxwell also owned up to being fascinated by road markings and double yellow lines, in particular.

But part of the appeal of Maxwell’s work lies in the intriguing nature of his compositions and the vulnerability of those lone figures.

Often curled up into a ball, eyes closed and pensive, it’s as if they are caught in the space between thought and action.

It’s a clue to the unspoken meaning of Maxwell’s paintings which work on a representational and abstract level - the difference between the stillness of the object and the vibrancy of the setting.

Motionless and a little worried, it’s as if these lone figures are being sucked into the background by bigger forces beyond their control - the quietly sinister mystery at the heart of Maxwell Doig’s work.

l Maxwell Doig at 108 Fine Art, Cold Bath Road runs until March 22.