gigatos | June 1, 2022
Peter Doig (* April 17, 1959 in Edinburgh) is a Scottish painter. He is considered one of the most authoritative and internationally influential figurative artists of the present day.
Peter Doig was born in 1959 in the capital of Scotland, where his ancestors had always resided. A year after his birth, his parents moved from Edinburgh to Trinidad in the Caribbean, where Doig spent early childhood years. A move to Canada followed in 1966 and another to London in 1979 – Doig”s childhood was marked by these frequent moves. He never lived in the same house for more than three years and attended a total of nine different schools.
When Doig moved to London in 1979, he was initially interested in studying stage design. Nevertheless, he decided to attend the Wimbledon School of Art and train in painting. From 1980 to 1983 he studied at St Martin”s School of Art until his bachelor”s degree. Figurative painting experienced a resurgence in the 1980s, after the decade before had been devoted to abstraction, video works, performances, and other novel forms of art. Despite the return of figurative painting, no opportunity arose for Doig to exhibit his early work in a gallery setting. His inspirations included artists from almost all periods of Western art history: from Goya, Courbet, Picasso and Max Beckman to the young German and Italian Neo-Expressionists such as Georg Baselitz, Sigmar Polke and Francesco Clemente. The latter were increasingly shown in London galleries at the time.
In 1986, Doig moved back to Montreal, returning to London three years later. Six years earlier, after graduating from St. Martin”s, Doig had turned down a one-year master”s fellowship at the Chelsea School of Art in London. In 1989, he nevertheless applied to the art school and completed his Master of Arts degree in 1990. During his studies, the artist worked intermittently as a dresser with the English National Opera in 1989.
Peter Doig was offered a residency in Trinidad in 2000. In 2002, together with his family, his wife and five children, he moved back to the Caribbean island he already knew. He set up his studio at the Caribbean Contemporary Arts Centre near Port of Spain, where he worked with his friend and fellow artist Chris Ofili. He also moved into a house in the nearby mountains to work in peace.
Doig, meanwhile, served on the artistic board of the Tate Gallery in London from 1995 to 2000 and as professor of painting at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf from 2005 to 2017.
Peter Doig”s work is known for weaving together an extensive archive of found and self-photographed images, techniques, moods, titles, and themes from the history of music and art. They do not serve as templates, but rather as triggers or informants that can be recombined again and again, used and experienced by the artist as diverse fields of inspiration and image-making techniques. They lead to the fact that photography, film, music and painting are always simultaneously present in his work. His works often oscillate between personal memories and longings. Art critics have described how Doig”s paintings result in an imaginary and unique world of colorfulness because of the various references and memories. “This is imaginative art of the highest order,” said American art critic Jonathan Jones.
Doig”s figurative paintings are now among the most influential artistic formulations of his generation. Both his lively exhibition activity and the art market and the record prices achieved for his works there reflect Doig”s continuing success. The various starting points underlying Doig”s paintings are based on the artist”s experiences and everyday impressions. Doig”s nomadic life is a major influence on his painting: “I never have a plan of how the painting should be. Painting is always a journey,” says the artist about his working process. The influence of his experiences can be clearly seen in the Caribbean and Canadian landscapes in his large-format paintings – their exoticism on the one hand, their lonely wilderness on the other. The artist draws his motifs from these personal encounters in and with the landscape. However, he is not interested in “veduta-like images,” even though individual pictorial motifs are based on actually existing landmarks, such as the prison island of Trinidad in 100 Years Ago (Carrera). Likewise, certain references to the painting of Edvard Munch, Paul Gauguin, or Pierre Bonnard are evident.
Although often photographs or posters are the basis of his paintings, his paintings are not in a photorealistic style. Rarely does a film also serve as a starting point. Sean Cunningham”s horror film Friday 13th had made such a deep impression on Doig that the film”s concluding dream sequence-with a canoe containing a woman in flowing hair-has since been a central subject for the painter, inspiring him to create numerous independent paintings. A canoe can also be seen in his early painting White Canoe, created in 1991, which fetched 7.7 million pounds at auction in 2007. Peter Doig thus unexpectedly advanced to become the most expensive living artist on the planet, but only for a few days.
Doig often uses unusual color combinations and angles of view, achieving a magically realistic effect. One of his trademarks is also the refusal to subordinate himself to an artistic mainstream; his paintings are aesthetic, but at the same time they can be seen as socially critical. In the paintings, whose calm seems to topple at any moment, memory, biographical, popular images, and narrated actions coagulate into dreamlike sequences.
Since April 2003, Doig and his friend Che Lovelace have been organizing a small film festival for contemporary avant-garde films in their studio in Laventille. On a weekly basis, the StudioFilmClub shows films sent to them by friends or that they themselves bring back from travels. This is done in the private setting of the studio, but with the openness of a club event, where there is room for conversations, bar service, or even the occasional concert as the beginning, break, or conclusion of a shared film evening. Their program spans film classics as well as independent, music and artist films and also current Hollywood productions. For these events, the artist paints posters that are hung on the grounds of the cultural center as announcements. “These paintings are signposts and information instruments, but precisely also typical works by Peter Doig, in which the cinematic quality so characteristic of his work, especially the quality of evoking the viewer”s imagination, experiences a doubling and heightening through the reference to a concrete film,” as the introduction to the exhibition StudioFilmClub 2005 at the Kunsthalle Zürich paraphrases. These spontaneous posters seem to be literally snatched out of his hands by gallery owners in Europe, only to fetch top prices at auction.
Peter Doig is considered one of the highest paid living artists of our time. His works have so far achieved prices of up to 26 million US dollars. In 2007, the art magazine Monopol named him the eighth most important living artist in the world.
In 2016, he found himself in a lawsuit described as “bizarre” because he had denied authorship of a painting attributed to him and was therefore sued by an art dealer and a former prison guard for $7.9 million in damages. The former guard claimed that Doig, who was unknown at the time, had sold him the painting in 1976 in Thunder Bay, where he had been incarcerated at the time. The owner wanted to resell the alleged painting by the now famous painter, billed as “the new Bacon or Freud,” at a high profit. The acrylic painting bears the signature “Peter Doig 76” and depicts a desert landscape. Doig was able to prove during the trial that he had never served a prison sentence in Thunder Bay and that he had never painted any of his more than 500 paintings with acrylic paint. The judge in charge of the case ruled after seven days of trial in Chicago on August 23, 2016: “Peter Doig could not have been the author of this work.” Similarities between the painting and paintings by Doig were “pure coincidence.” The painter of the painting, he said, was in fact the now-deceased Canadian amateur painter Peter Doige. His sister confirmed his authorship during the trial.
Peter Doig”s painting is represented in a variety of international museum collections with paintings such as The House that Jacques Built (and Ski Jacket (1994), at the Tate Modern in London. He is also represented in the British Museum in London, the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool, the Southampton City Art Gallery, the Musée National d”Art Moderne in Paris, the Bonnefantenmuseum in Maastricht, as part of the Goetz Collection in Munich, the Kunsthalle in Nuremberg, the collection of the Fondation Beyeler in Basel, the Museo Cantonale d”Arte in Lugano, among others, in the Museu de Arte Moderna – Colecção Berardo in Sintra, in the National Gallery of Canada, in the Art Institute of Chicago, in the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, as well as in the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, in the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington or in the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Dallas Museum of Art.