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Artist Talking

This is a post from the weareoca.com archive. Information contained within it may now be out of date.
We have an exhibition of Peter Doig paintings in Edinburgh just now as part of the Edinburgh Arts Festival. Considering the status of Doig I was surprised and exited to see that he was giving an artist’s talk as part of the festival and booked a ticket straight away.
Like many readers of this blog I expect, I have certain artists’ that I feel I ‘get’ or perhaps to put it more formally, I feel we have a shared perspective. Peter Doig is one such artist for me and I was intrigued to hear him speak. Olivia Irvine and I are running a study day to his show later so I took her along to see what he had to say for himself. The artist himself spoke calmly and clearly but his interlocutor was an art historian who had devised a set of fairly closed questions which came from an historical perspective (in line with the framing of the show as an investigation of Doig as a conceptual painter – don’t know whose idea that was).
The room was chock full of painters and I am sure many of us would have preferred a fellow painter to be asking the questions we wanted answers too about the nitty gritty of his practice. Curator Keith Hartley’s questions were geared more to spotting references (Daumier, Whistler, Bonnard and Matisse) in Doig’s work to the extent that sometimes it felt like more of a display of Hartley’s own erudition than the genuine interest a section of the audience certainly had simple listen to whatever Doig felt like imparting. Despite that, his clarity of interest shone through and the bits Doig managed to squeeze in about his studio life were inspirational. Several times he made reference to his close friendship with Chris Ofili and described asking for, and following, advice from his friend about what to exhibit or how to progress a work.  I have struggled in my new status as student to work within the short timeframes of semesters, as I imagine many readers do with assignments.
It was lovely to hear Doig talk about waiting months to see whether a painting had proved itself, or of putting things away and coming back to them several years later. It reminded me to be a little more methodical in the way I store my work and reference material so that I too can pull out a sketch from 5 years ago without several days hunting only to discover to got lost in a move. The main lesson I came away with from the day was that here was a man easy with his own status as an artist, operating with an easy familiarity with his subject and materials. His humility allowed him to be brave and he saw his work as a positive and enjoyable thing to be doing. Sounds simple enough but it is quite a feat to pull off.
I would encourage readers to take a few minutes to search the internet for artists talks in your area and go along to a couple. Since moving to Edinburgh I have been to several and I find very generous with their ideas and methods. Here are some links but there are obviously lots more and there is bound to be someone talking near you this month.

Posted by author: Emma Drye
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8 thoughts on “Artist Talking

  • Sounds like rather a mixed talk if only they’d given more space to Doig himself. I’m in aix en province having just visited cezannes studio high above the town. All the trees look like they’ve been made by him, and the turning early autumn look amazing next to the pale ochre buildings. I’ve just learned that there’s a major exhibition of Braque on at the grand palais in Paris from 18 sept to January. Worth checking out their website as there are a number of guided video tours. Maybe the exhibition will tour to Scotland?
    See you at the Doig tour, best, cathie

  • Lucky you Emma! He’s a favourite of mine (as is Chris Ofili) – in my dreams I will be living in the Carribian and hanging out with the art crowd there 🙂
    I’m now off to find the study visit post (which I seem to have missed) – would love to tour the exhibition with OCA if there’s space left.
    I know what you mean about artists talks though…sometimes they are great and you get real insight into their motivations and practice, and other times they are hijacked by the learned philosophers and historians. Although even then I still always learn something about why the work is considered good by the art establishment – and that can be quite revealing.
    Do you think, as Peter D was sitting listening to the historian fellow, he thought – ‘oh, so that’s why I chose xxx colour – I was influenced by xxx historical painting?”, or ‘Aha, so now I see my place in history!’…Or – was he quite self conscious about his choices, and aware of his link to previous artist?

  • I’m just thinking – are artists talks really for (would be) collectors? If an artist’s place in history can be explained then a collector may be more willing to part with 30,000 pounds.

  • Alistair Sooke didn’t get much of a response when he interviewed the artist recently on TV. I don’t know if you can locate the interview. I was left with the feeling(which I constantly have) that artists don’t always want to talk about their work-excepting David Hockney and Anthony Gormley! Regards Maggie

  • Peter came across as fairly shy, yet humorous. He made eye contact with the audience which I really appreciated. Keith Hartley was not the best person to question him. (Emma and I would have been better!) However, I was impressed with Mr. Hartley’s talk on the John Bellany show some months earlier. I think that may have been because he knew John personally. As far as history is concerned, I think Peter Doig is well aware of his place. He has gone through the Art College system and is very well informed. The influence from the Canadian Group of Seven is staringly obvious. We are not so aware of them in Britain.

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