Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Peter Doig on Using Photography in his Work

In May 2015 Martin Gayford writes comprehensively about Peter Doig's latest exhibition and interviews the artist who makes a number of refined comments about his processes, these clarified statements are perhaps more honed then when he previously talked about this subject matter.

Doig talks about the use of photography in painting:

"Photography has been used as a tool for painting for many years. It fed off painting and vice versa."

He acknowledges the heritage of photography in the sense that early work was very much about replicating the style of painting and how the medium of photography was influenced in this way. That now it is used by many painters. He goes on to say:

"But to me it's more interesting when it's not about simply copying, or making photorealism. You see so many people using the photographic world in painting, and I would say that 90 percent of the time it's so mundane. How do you transcend that?"

Doig is saying here that the process of using a photographic image in your work is something of a trap. The ease of simply copying an image can become mundane, potentially predictable. The straight copy of a photo would replicate the photograph and what does this achieve? He's not ruling every such image as mundane more that there is a higher chance of it being so if you do a straight copy. His vision of transcending is the question of how do you escape this? How can you capture more meaning or value in the work when the original photograph has done that already?

He is of course putting himself in this position. His work he is saying could be mundane but he goes on to explain how he escapes this, or tries when he uses photography in his work.

"The photography is an aid really. If I relied totally on my own drawing, my work would be very, very slow and very, very stiff because I'd have to square up."

He is highlighting the convenience of photography and Gayford describes his process as 'subtle and elusive'. Doig goes on to describe some of the finer aspects of the photograph that attracts him:

"Also, in photography, you can sometimes see body language, or a particular silhouette, but to see this in real life would be difficult because it's momentary."

This is what we see in Doig's paints; something captured in a moment. There is no doubt a sense the image is in transition, the people and places caught when they lease expected or the location a scene from the side of a road as you drive by. Some aspects of the shadow are unreal and it's this unreal, although obvious contradictory, aspect of the photo that he seems to be drawn to. He finishes this statement of using photography:

"I'm sure at some time I probably have painted a whole scene from a photograph, but it's very rare. At the moment I'm using just figures, or an element of a face."

Doig looks beyond the frame of the photo and sees it as a place where can extract detail and use it in any way he likes. This is typical Doig who is not afraid to use a vast range of sources for his work. He runs on instinct and produces what Gayford calls a 'complex metamorphosis of the images.'.

GAYFORD, M. (2015) Memory Traces, Apollo Art Magazine, New York

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