No Foreign Lands for PETER DOIG

Peter Doig has been leading a life of a wanderer – born in Scotland (1959), as a child moved first to Trinidad and then to Canada, studied in London and then came back to Trinidad. Now the painter shares his time between New York and Trinidad, which he finds a potent place visually (his canvases are the best proof). We read in the foreword: ‘This migrant existence echoes the global experience of many people today and is what led us to call this exhibition of Doig’s work from the last thirteen years No Foreign Lands. For, as Doig’s fellow Scot, Robert Louis Stevenson, wrote: “There are no foreign lands. It is the traveller only who is foreign” (The Silverado Squatters).’ As also stressed in the foreword, Peter Doig being one of the artists with a new twist and a new take on reality, gives painting new meaning. He invalidates medium’s exhaustion. 

 This richly illustrated book was indeed published on the occasion of the monographic exhibition of Peter Doig’ co-organized by National Gallery in Scotland and Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and it featured over 200 paintings and works on paper, including the newest and many yet unpublished pieces. ‘I think that paintings are able to take you places, really’, says Doig and sets forth on an inspirational journey, where there are no foreign lands not only territory-wise. It’s all about discovering the new. Sensual colours, expressive compositions, runny paint, rich surfaces – we can delight in it all thanks to exquisite quality of the print and the paper of the publication.

Influenced by painters like Munch, Gauguin, Matisse or Bonnard, but also popular culture (one of the most iconic canvases 100 Years Ago was inspired by a scene from a horror movie) or everyday life, Doig often comes back to the same scenes, images, places. The motifs reappear when the painter feels he has discovered something that needs some more exploring. ‘I think I’m trying to make something that’s constantly evolving into another image, really.’ The book features numerous tries within particular theme, so the reader can follow the process.

‘No Foreign Lands’ apart from amazing reproductions has an interesting interview with the painter and excellent texts. I enjoyed two insightful essays by Stephane Aquin and Keith Hartley, who explore Doig’s working methods and place his canvases in the context of the history of painting and also his traveller life. Being interested in correlation between painting and photography, I found particularly interesting passages discussing the issue in Doig’s oeuvre:

Stephane Aquin investigates Doig’s approach to the use of photos: ‘The painter has often explained his working method, which draws on an ever-growing image bank made up of personal photographs, advertising materials, art books and magazines, postcards from numerous time periods and places, CD-covers, newspaper pictures etc., all of which, when cut up and assembled in specific ways, present the mnemonic charge that is the prime condition of a work. To paint is to first of all choose the image and then to transform it through the act of painting. I use photography 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.’ In the second essay Keith Hartley points out that: ‘Doig has on several occasions said that he would like to be less reliant on photographs and trust more to memory. (He does not like to paint in front of the motif. Considering the size of his major paintings, this would, in any case be an impossibility.). The trouble with such a work as Grande Riviere is that the intricacy of the foliage in the forest makes it impossible to have a detailed memory of the scene. Doig still had to rely on photographs. But he was willing to allow accidents in applying the paint to dictate, to a certain extent, how the work developed.’ 

‘Peter Doig. No Foreign Lands’ is a book to explore without rush. It will amaze and surprise you with something new each time you leaf through. It simply demands to be enjoyed in long gulps and I assure you, it will affect your emotions and senses. 

 

‘Peter Doig. No Foreign Lands’, with contributions by: Hilton Als, Stephane Aquin, Keith Hartley, Angus Cook and Peter Doig, Hatje Cantz