An exploration of the influential artist's mysterious painted worlds.
Survey by Adrian Searle, Interview by Kitty Scott, Focus by Catherine Grenier, Artist's Choice by Hannes Schneider and Arnold Fanck, Writings by Peter Doig
Whether painting a mysterious bearded figure floating on a flat wash of blue or a winter landscape glimpsed through a thick web of branches, Peter Doig harnesses the materiality of his medium to create what he calls ‘abstractions of memories’, distilling recollected sensations into moments of pure sentience, like scenes in a series of mysterious narratives. In Gasthof zur Muldentalsperre (2000-2) two costumed figures stand guard at a low stone wall while behind them a reservoir reflects a twinkling starry sky. The young man bundled up against the cold in Blotter (1993) contemplates his reflection in a frozen pond, while in Red Boat (Imaginary Boys) (2004) six men in white shirts navigate upstream through a dense tropical landscape.
Doig’s work has been exhibited at the world’s top museums, including The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Centre Pompidou in Paris and the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, and has been selected for contemporary art’s most important international exhibitions, such as the SITE Santa Fe Biennial (2006), the Tate Triennial (2003 and 2006) and the Venice Biennale (2003). Although his work has had an enormous impact on contemporary painting, paving the way for a whole generation of idiosyncratic figurative painters, his painted worlds are without parallel. Raised in Canada, based in London for two decades and now living in Trinidad, Doig has tallied a wide range of references, not only geographic (from French modernist architecture to the ski slopes of Quebec) but also artistic (from Ernst Kirchner to Philip Guston) and musical (from punk to calypso). Sometimes these references lurk in plain sight – Figure in Mountain Landscape (1997-8) is based on a photograph of Group of Seven painter Franklin Carmichael – but most often they lie deep below the churning surface of the canvas.
In the Interview Kitty Scott asks the artist about his shifting sense of place and the way it continues to shape his work. In the Survey Adrian Searle considers how the paradoxical union of highly charged technique and muted subject matter lend the artist’s paintings their unique ‘emotional weather’. Catherine Grenier’s Focus centres on the painting 100 Years Ago, examining its movement along axes of time and place, both historical and imaginary. In the Artist’s Choice, Hannes Schneider & Arnold Fanck’s text on skiing recalls the artist’s longtime fascination with the sport while evoking the grace and physicality of his painting. Artist’s Writings include a 2001 interview featuring questions from a range of artists, curators and critics; an appreciation of the work of Pierre Bonnard; and the artist’s ten favourite ‘house painters’.
Adrian Searle is Chief Art Critic at the Guardian and a regular contributor to the El Cultural supplement of El Mundo, as well as an occasional writer of fiction. He has curated exhibitions for the Hayward Gallery, London, the Serpentine Gallery, London, and Reina Sofia, Madrid. He was an early champion of Peter Doig’s work and has written on it extensively.
Kitty Scott is Director of Visual Arts at the Walter Phillips Gallery and the Banff International Curatorial Institute at the Banff Centre, Canada. Formerly Chief Curator at the Serpentine Gallery in London and Curator of Contemporary Art at the National Gallery of Canada, she has written for such magazines as Canadian Art, Parachute and Parkett.
Catherine Grenier is Chief Curator of the Contemporary Collections at the Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris, where she has organized such exhibitions as ‘Los Angeles 1955-85: Birth of an art capital’ (2006), ‘Big Bang: Creation and destruction in twentieth-century art’ (2005-6) and ‘Les Années Pop’ (2001).