Friday, 26 February 2016

Doig's Image Appropriation

These are notes and observations on an Artist Talk - Peter Doig in Conversation with Ulf Kuster (Curator, Foundation Beyeler) 20.06.2014.

This text will be used to fuel my final written work for my MA but is also an intriguing examination of Doig's appropriation of image for use in his paintings an area I am very interested in. The way in which contemporary painters find an image to work with is massively open too interpretation and how these are manipulated by process has a large part to play in the final formation of the painting.

In these notes I have quoted and further examined through my own reflections the meaning of some of the image appropriation that Doig draws upon in his answers.

Peter Doig talks to Ulf Kuster before his exhibition at the Foundation Beyeler in 2014.

When Doig is asked what does tradition mean to him in his painting in particular reference to Gustave Courbet and Paul Gauguin, two artists exhibited in the same space in Germany before Peter Doig's exhibition he said:
                "I don't think there is the same type of influence as there is for a painter these days as it was 100 years ago....It may seem strange to take inference from artists from such a long time ago.
                I'm interested in different types of technique to suit the subject of the particular painting. Some paintings may require something a bit more real or traditionalist and then I might look at Courbet. I think I was very influenced by his use of the silhouette, the silhouette of the   figure. It was made more powerful by the white of the snow."
When asked about his snow paintings that he painted in the 1990's Doig explained:
                "I wanted to bring subjects to my paintings that I felt had been neglected and never used in  painting. Skiing seem to be something that and in some ways a really bad subject for paintings because it was so white and middle-class and unexpected as well. I just thought I could try this out and then by doing so I found how to paint in a different way."
When I asked did he use a curtain of white snow as an affect Doig explained:
Bruegel painting 'Adoration the Kings in the Snow'
"I was in Switzerland in Winter and saw A Bruegel painting 'Adoration the Kings in the Snow' and I was interested in the screen of snow. It was like he had painted the painting then added a screen that you look through that suggested it was winter. Yes, I think at that time I  was interested in it as an affect (referring to his own paintings) and then I thought that this is getting too easy...I wanted to make a much plainer painting."
When asked are you actually telling stories Doig replied:
                "There's always an anecdote, and is always a story, often an incident, often an experience   but I don't know important that is to anyone else other than me but if I don't have that then  I wouldn't make the painting. They are not other people stories.

                I purposely trying avoid other peoples stories."
Doig is asked how does he develop an idea?
                "The process often comes from seeing something, witnessing someone or something and  then taking a photograph to recreate that possibly, it doesn't have to be something extraordinary it can be ordinary. Just the combination of things."
Peter Doig explained that sometimes his choice of image is because of something that is associated with what you can't see but is actually visually there for example in one of his paintings (Lapeyrouse Wall, 2004) a man walks  along a wall and there is a cemetery behind it but you can't see it. But yet this is what inspired Peter Doig to paint this particular picture alongside the composition of the subject matter.
As Peter Doig is explaining this process though he apparently struggles to really nail it down and this is because for him the choice of image very much occurs instantly as if he himself is the recorder of the event that he will eventually portray. His own experiences feed into this visual language but he then interprets it into his paintings. It is apparent that he has no rules when it comes to choosing his subject matter because for him he doesn't know when this moment will come, when the inspiration
will move him.
He talks about aspects of the painting that people who know the location of the subject will have a familiarity with. This demonstrates that for him people experience his paintings in different ways which he sees as a totally acceptable and doesn't seem to assign a value to this other than the fact that they will experience a different set of realisations.
Peter Doig is asked whether he uses photography as inspiration:
                "I try to avoid painting from photography. As far as I'm concerned it became totally         ubiquitous really, this use of trying to reproduce the feeling of a photograph in a painting and I'm not interested in that at all. But I am interested in the feeling you may get in a photograph that you can't get in real life, that you can't get from your imagination.
                I think there are many ways to use a photograph. I think it's a good tool for a painter."
When cited for saying that he compares his paintings to collage Peter Doig explained:
                "Yeah  I think a lot of the paintings are collaged images, collages that become images.    Sometimes I would literally make a collage and then make the painting after the collage or it's just elements collaged together.
                It's like a tool. I think it is just a way of piecing things together isn't it, it doesn't have to look like what one thinks of a collage."
Peter Doig then goes on to talk about the appropriation of a magazine image that he found in 1979. This shows a nudist image of a naked woman that up until now he has not had the confidence to approach and put into his work. This image of a nude woman isn't something that he has taken himself, more an appropriation and a recording of a feeling he has about the image and whether he can interpret that into his painting. The collage here is his past experience, how he feels about the image in that moment and the actual image itself, plus social associations we have with this type of classic naturist Image and nude. Deep down we as the viewer will never truly understand his motivations for liking the image yet on some level this could be a great tool for him to inject an atmosphere into the work.
When asked about whether music influences his painting Doig says:
                "I can't think of any one painting that is directly influenced by Music."
When a painting featuring loud speakers is cited to Doig says that he was more interested in the monolithic nature of the speakers and the fact that someone wanted to stand on top of them rather than its musical associations. This highlights again Doig's compulsion towards collecting visual motifs.
When asked about painting in Trinidad he says:
                "I guess I'm more interested in capturing of the atmosphere of Trinidad in a painting rather  than being a Trinidadian painter. I'm not a Trinidadian, I don't feel in a position to make comments."

When discussing the concrete cabin painting series;
                "I was interested in this building because of course the architecture, but much more for the setting. This building is quite close to Verdun and there are many many military graveyards in the area, a lot of people lost their lives there and the woods are very sombre. And then the building is, when you turn your back on facade of the building and then you walk into the woods, and then you look back I was actually very surprised at the sight of this facade of the Modernist building broken by the trees and I felt like there were people looking at me through the trees. That's what attracted me to it, it felt haunted and haunting."
Doig was asked if he was influenced by horror movies.
                "I'm not actually, it reminded me more paintings to be honest, it reminded me of a painting.

                It was the atmosphere was interested in."
In the interview it is suggested that Doig paints atmospheres rather than stories. He replies that he
doesn't want to be pinned down.
He is asked about his use of prints and printing:
             "I think that itching is a good medium for a painter, a good way to do things, you know you're not always in control of it and sometimes when I made etchings alongside paintings of the same subject I would get information that I needed to complete the painting."
When Doig talks about this appropriation from itching he is talking about a number of things. Not only compositional elements but also the quality of the mark. Doig has talked about the process of etching and how it can distort aspects of an image. These are very experiential and unique to particular prints. At times the way Doig use's paint it reflects something broken and it could be argued that his experiences with etchings have heavily influenced this practice. 


Artist Talk - Peter Doig in Conversation with Ulf Kuster (Curator, Foundation Beyeler) 20.06.2014.

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