Hazy horizons that fade into the fuzzy-edged sea, forests at once electric and melting, leaves as plump and ripe as fruits — these are the mystical yields of Peter Doig‘s painted travels. His current exhibition “No Foreign Lands” turns a Caribbean journey into a wash of tart colors and bubbling textures, forming tropical visions existing somewhere between the memory and imagination.
Doig’s parents moved to the tropical island of Trinidad from their hometown of Scotland when the artist was only a child. Doig himself participated in a month-long residency in the Caribbean destination in 2000, after having spent time in the UK and Canada, and eventually made it his permanent home two years later. Yet even prior to this move there was something about Trinidad that seeped its way into Doig’s canvases.
“I remembered the architecture,” Doig said in an interview with Angus Cook. “I could remember smells. I could remember roads, and routes. It’s a potent place visually, just the experience of it, even at a young age, and I realized I had always felt very fond of this place, very connected to it even though I hadn’t been back in 33 years.”
Doig riffs off the traditions of the great colorists past, warping their aesthetics to remain relevant to painting’s contemporary challengers. Paul Gauguin’s acidic planes trickle into Maurice Denis-like skeletal trees, as Édouard Vuillard’s ghostly blotted figures wander through them. In this timeless space, rich with both art history’s classic beauty and the piercing brightness of a computer screen saver, Doig poses a mouth-watering challenge to anyone who insists painting is dead.
Doig’s works function like a memory of an exotic vacation that, over time, grows fantasies of its own, eventually becoming inseparable from the original events. See the psychedelic works below and let us know if you think Doig is bringing symbolism back in the comments.
Peter Doig’s “No Foreign Lands” will show until May 4, 2014 at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.