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 Information contained within it may now be out of date.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.