Peter Doig: No Foreign Lands
Extraordinary exhibition that flies the flag for painting
This article is from 2013.
There are many powerful and challenging works at this year's Edinburgh Art Festival. So it is to the credit of the programmers that this extraordinary exhibition of work by Peter Doig sits comfortably at the centre of the line-up, flying the flag for painting as a medium that not only has a place in contemporary art, but one that can be challenging, innovative and evocative.
The show takes its name from Robert Louis Stevenson's The Silver Squatters – 'There are no foreign lands. It is the traveller only who is foreign,' and a sense of place or location forms a strong background to the work. From the years Edinburgh-born Doig spent in Canada and London to his years growing up in Trinidad, where he settled in 2002, the paintings explore place, identity, belonging and dislocation. The overwhelming feeling, however, is that these dramatically imposingly works are, ultimately, all about the paint.
A room that looks at Doig's use of geometric structures in his work suggest not only an order that pervades the rest of his paintings, but also the idea of a threshold; a glimpse into another world that can be seen but not fully experienced. This idea continues elsewhere – one room exploring free form and colour shows eerie visions of ghostly figures that aren't quite there. The translucent layers of paint in muted colours suggest the passing of time, and that Doig is constantly treading a boundary with another world. Nowhere is this more strongly sensed than in the intriguing Black Curtain (Towards Monkey Island), in which Doig uses a veil of paint to create a very visible barrier to the world he depicts. This exhibition is an unapologetic show of painting that embraces not only the subject matter but also the process, all the while crossing the boundary between figurative and abstract art.