James Brown's I feel good booms from the cafeteria loudspeakers
at the Pinakothek, he is as much in his own element as he is a short time
later walking through the museum collection with paintings by
Ernst Wilhelm Nay. Perhaps it's precisely this rift between pop culture
and the classics of a past age that makes up a contemporary artist's sense
of self. And just as the drifter relishes the intensity of the moment,
Doig too is in constant pursuit of life.
Peter Doig: Red Boat (Imaginary Boys), 2004
Courtsey Contemporary Fine Arts, Berlin
Photo: Jochen Littkemann
Peter Doig, how's
life in Trinidad?
Peter Doig: Good. It's different, it's
good to be away from the metropolis for a while. But as you might know,
Port of Spain is a working city, and Trinidad is not a tourist's place,
which I would never have gone to as an artist. It's not like lying under a
palm tree, although there are palm trees there as well as landscapes and
If it was primarily about beautiful beaches, there
would be many more advertisements telling us to come to Trinidad. But
there aren't all that many touristic pictures inviting us to the island.
I lived there as a child too, for six years, so my situation entails going
back after 30 years to see what's changed and what hasn't, and that's been
To be an artist in London nowadays is also
hard work - even the labor of being a world-famous painter...
Peter Doig at his exhibition
"Metropolitain", München 2004, Photo: Harald Fricke
Well, that's also true. Now I live in a different region, but the
definition of my work as an artist hasn't changed. Maybe one could work
anywhere, but that's hard to know.
In order to make your work, do you have to feel familiar
with the place you live in - or could your paintings have been produced
It's a very funny mix of the places where I am and
where I have been. London was quite exciting in the eighties for me, when
it was still a bit of a renegade town, when the energy came more from the
way you were living rather than the whole art industry.
don't you use your surroundings as motifs? When you were in London, you
didn't paint the city, did you?
No, I always painted elsewhere,
in a way. Of the paintings now shown in Munich, there are only three or
four that are directly based on postcards from India and that reminded me
of Trinidad. I didn't want to come up with a subject that could
superficially seduce you with some sort of exoticism. Using these images
was a way of painting Trinidad by proxy. I also learned that you are
affected by your environment, even if you try not to be. Color, light,
that is because you want to do justice to it and you also get excited by
it. It doesn't mean that I will do a city painting if I go back to London.
Actually, very few city paintings interest me. For me, it's much more
necessary to find that other space.
Peter Doig: House of Pictures (Carrera), 2004
Courtesey Contemporary Fine Arts, Berlin
Photo: Jochen Littkemann
Looking at your new
painting House of Pictures (Carrera) doesn't give the impression of
a picturesque window to the world, but rather an intertwining of two
realities, the island and the wall. Is that what you call "that other
Well, that's a kind of strange painting. It's
about facades of paintings, as well, playing with the idea of
representation. But I must say, that painting didn't work before I put the
broken beer bottle in the foreground.
you kept on trying to focus in on the right side, where the island
appears. It wasn't intentional, it wasn't a game I was playing, it just
happened. Funnily enough, it was the last painting I finished. I first
thought of a figure, but that would have taken too much time, because I
usually start with a figure and then develop it slowly over a period of
nine, ten months. The figures always take a long time, I can't just put
one in and then leave it there.
Otherwise it would seem like too
much of a construct?
Yes, I have to bring in life, whether it's
the one showing a man with the umbrella or any other painting - they
shouldn't look like figures in a painting, they have to have their own
space. So I used the bottle as a substitute, leaving it crushed as it is.
That's one of the exciting things that happens during the process of
painting, an idea that comes by chance. Every painting needs something
that surprises you.