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Peter Doig’s exhibition “No Foreign Lands,” currently on view at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) features a series of landscape paintings, drawings, and posters that capture the dream and reality of Doig’s relationship with Trinidad. “I remember the architecture, the smells. I could remember roads, and routes. It’s a potent place visually, just the experience of it,” says Doig.
When Doig was three years old, he and his family moved to Trinidad for a couple of years while his father worked for a trading and shipping company. Many years later, after living in Montreal and the UK, he went back to Trinidad for an artist residency. After he completed the residency in Trinidad and returned to the UK, he became obsessed with the mystery and essence of the island. He painted, using tropical colors and textures that referenced his vague memories and dreams of the island. He returned to the island after three months of producing some of the most meaningful art he’s ever created, and has lived there ever since.
The exhibit takes place in the renown Michal and Renata Hornstein Pavillion, a slew of classical galleries situated in the MMFA dedicated to the Salon style of the late 19th- and early 20th-century arts. Doig’s work, which is highly influenced by Bonnard, Matisse, Gauguin, and Munch, is a perfect fit for the space.
One of his most important paintings 100 Years Ago, features a bearded man in a bright orange canoe in the ocean. Doig recreated this scenery over 50 times, and the one that was chosen to be in the Montreal exhibit was the first one he painted. While inspired by the island, his motivations stemmed mostly from the memories he remembered as a child. It wasn’t until after he returned to the island where he felt a more significant purpose for the painting. “I think seeing the ocean, being on an island and seeing these islands around the island, and the experience of it all, kind of in a way, opened things up, made the paintings a bit more expansive,” Doig said.
The end of the exhibition was dedicated to the movie posters he created for screenings at the StudioFilmClub, a repertory theatre he built inside his studio in Trinidad. He promoted screenings of films such as Jules et Jim, Tokyo Story, and Black Orpheus. These screenings were Doig’s way of returning the inspiration he got from the island, and the posters themselves served as art for the community.
“No Foreign Lands” will be on view at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts through May 4, 2014.