I found Peter Doig’s work oddly lovely and intoxicating, so I began researching his work and incorporating some his style into my own. Doig is a contemporary painter based in Trinidad. He was born in 1959 in Edinburgh, United Kingdom.
His work is figurative. Since he first started showing his work in the 1980’s, he has painted pictorial scenes. It wasn’t trendy at the turn of the century. Art critics and collectors had declared painting “dead” since the 1970’s. Beginning in 1962 when Clement Greenberg wrote in his essay “After Abstract Expressionism”, “good” art would now be predicated on conception alone. Subject matter and skill were no longer meaningful. Donald Judd, the artist who put Marfa on the map for the artworld, strengthened this belief when he asserted the irrelevance of painting in his essay “Specific Objects” in 1965. By the 1990’s, the works of Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin were popular, while the work of Peter Doig…. not so much. Painting, particularly figurative painting, had been “exhausted”.
Peter Doig paid no mind to this. As Catherine Grenier writes in her essay “Melancholy Resistance”, “his painting wastes no time with denials or references to a conceptual background”. I love it. I find that to be incredibly liberating. He didn’t get distracted by the art market or whatever was fashionable at the time.
What I most enjoy is the sense of in-betweeness, pause and reflection created by his work. He places you somewhere between the real and the imaginary. He seems to step back from what is happening here & now and look back to try and make sense how we/he got to where we are now. But Doig’s paintings also look forward. It causes me to feel as if I am standing at the edge of what Grenier identifies as a “scheduled disappearance” of the world “undermined by the corrosion of the virtual”. It’s that feeling you get when you first look down the Grand Canyon in person. Everything is quiet and larger than. You feel so little, yet you feel embraced by a great sense of overwhelming opportunity.
Read more about the so called “death of painting” in Back When Painting Was Dead by John Yau.
To learn more about Peter Doig’s life and artwork, read The Mythical Stories in Peter Doig’s Paintings by Calvin Tomkins.