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>> Drifter: An Interview with Peter Doig
>> Magical Mystery Tour
>> Interview Ilya and Emilia Kabakov
>> Time Travels: Abetz & Drescher

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The Drifter: A conversation with the British painter Peter Doig on his current exhibition "Metropolitain" in Munich's Pinakothek der Moderne

Metropolitain (House of Pictures), 2004 Courtesy Contemporary Fine Arts, Berlin Photo: Jochen Littkemann


In his paintings, melancholic figures meet with odd, ghostly landscapes: Peter Doig is a master of atmosphere who continuously combines art historical elements with impressions from the here and now. Harald Fricke met with the British painter as he was preparing for his exhibition in Munich.

On the morning before the opening of his large one-person exhibition in the Pinakothek der Moderne, Peter Doig had a look around Munich's parks. In the process, he happened upon a group of young surfers riding their boards in the rushing waters of a rapids. Doig was impressed by the way the amateur athletes were pursuing their love of nature in the midst of the big city - and quickly made a series of photographs.

Peter Doig at his exhibition "Metropolitain", München 2004
Photo: Harald Fricke


Presumably, some of these motifs will at some point resurface in his paintings. The British painter has become famous for his depictions of strangely desolate landscapes in which single individuals appear somewhat lost in introspection. Removed from time, they are melancholic drifters par excellence, the lone wolves of lost epochs. Some of the figures recall 19th-century dandies, while others are styled after images of hippies or rock musicians from the late sixties. Doig, who was born in Edinburgh in 1959, is a master of atmosphere able to mobilize a minimum of effort to conjure a mood of contemplation that threatens to slip over into the sadness of isolation at any moment. Because of his approach, he has often been associated with the Romantic tradition and its yearning for the sublime, although he himself sees connections of another sort entirely. French Impressionism fascinates him because of its concentration of light and color; naturalism serves him through its precise portrayal of everyday situations as a source of inspiration; while what he loves about Matisse is the rhythm of line and contour that always makes his figures dance.

Grand Riviere II, 2002
Deutsche Bank Collection


In combining all these elements while lending them his own unmistakable signature, Doig has become a prime example of the post-modern painter who uses history as a rich source of material to create his own view of reality. He was already nominated for the British Whitechapel Award in 1991, followed by exhibitions in the Victoria Miro Gallery and Berlin's Contemporary Fine Arts. At the very latest since his nomination for the Turner Prize in 1994, Doig has counted among the true international stars of contemporary art, even if he prefers to work in quiet reclusion, in contrast to his Young British Artist colleagues. This is why he moved from London to Trinidad two years ago, where he had already spent a part of his childhood. Evidently, the change in environment has also had an effect on the reception of his paintings: he is already being compared to exiles such as Paul Gauguin, and his current paintings are being interpreted as a return to the idyllic and to exoticism. This is a judgment destined to be revised shortly, as soon as the first Munich surfers turn up on one of his future paintings - despite all his love for faraway worlds, Doig is still very contemporary, at home more in today's Hip Hop than in a revival of the fin de siècle , as I quickly discovered in conversation.

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