Peter Doig (°1959) is probably best known for his timeless, exotic landscape paintings, inspired by his own itinerant lifestyle. Born in Edinburgh, Doig lived in Trinidad, London, and Canada in his youth and studied painting in London. The artist now has a studio in Trinidad and New York, and also teaches painting at the School of Art in Düsseldorf, Germany.
His work is currently on show in Fondation Beyeler (Switserland) and will move later to Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark. For the first time he is showing some of his largely experimental prints. From the excellent catalogue I learn that making prints is not just a by-product of Doig’s art but can also be integral to his work process. The finished paintings we see are often the result of the development of an image that was first made as a print.
The first print shown above informed the painting ‘Grande Rivière’. It’s based on a photograph the artist took himself. In the catalogue he explains: “I was just attracted to this odd palm… I mean apart from the atmosphere… this bizarre sort of tree that seemed to be hanging in space, almost horizontally. That’s what’s great about print-making, a state can change the whole atmosphere.”
About ‘Daytime astronomy’ he recalls that the farm is somewhere close to the Quebec border with Ontario. “I used to take pictures whilst driving. I liked the plain and the emptiness and the somewhat generic buildings. The figure is based on a photograph of Jackson Pollock – a great photograph of a man lying on his back staring at the sky… He is rooted to the ground but seems to be elsewhere in his head.”
On the relation between the absurd and the serious in his works he refers to ‘Blotter’. “This guy standing and looking at his feet, I mean is this a valid subject for a painting?When i was working on this image I looked at Courbet’s ‘Hunters in the Snow’ (below). The thing I love about the hunters is their ordinariness, the way they’re wearing modern clothing. It relies quite directly on things like the silhouettes of the figures against the white of the snow.”
“‘Blotter’ is actually one of the few paintings I have staged. When I was in Canada for Christmas 1993, I staged this composition with the idea of making a painting with a realistic image of reflection.It’s a portrait of my brother, at the time he must have been around 28 years old.”
If you want to read more, I recommend the article ‘Every Picture tells a Story’ about Peter Doig and a recent interview with the artist in DAMn Magazine.
All pictures are from the catalogue ‘Peter Doig’, 2014, Fondation Beyeler.