Artist Peter Doig has been working in Port of Spain, painting subversive film posters for a series of indie screenings. Yolanda Zappaterra pays a visit to his StudioFilmClub, ahead of a retrospective at Tate Britain (All images © Paul Murphy)
When the Tate’s new Peter Doig exhibition opens next month, it promises to include a sizeable body of work the Scottish-born artist has created since his move to the Caribbean city of Port of Spain in Trinidad six years ago. In the London art world, Doig is best known for his haunting paintings, composed from found photographic images and built up to deliver a strong sense of atmosphere and narrative. Yet in Port of Spain, Doig is mainly known for something that, on the surface, has little to do with those paintings, but does have a relationship with his practice that is as much about visual communication as it is about fine art.
For nearly five years, Doig and fellow artist Che Lovelace have been running a weekly film club from Doig’s spacious studio at Caribbean Contemporary Arts. In a laid-back, informal setting that has a bar in the corner of the dusty concrete bunker and higgledy-piggledy rows of hard plastic chairs facing a white wall, which acts as the screen, StudioFilmClub offers a space for the kinds of films, music and discussion which are badly needed. Here, TV is mostly American, the multiplex screens show mostly American blockbusters, fashion draws on the oversize basketball shirts favoured by rap fans, and music is more likely to be gangsta rap than soca, pan or calypso.
What Doig and Lovelace bring to the mix is a world view that offers locals insight into other cultures, and a place to discuss these films in an informal setting. Films span everything from Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali (1955) to Takeshi Kitano’s Hana-bi (1997). Classics figure large, but so do the kinds of films that are rarely seen outside the festival circuit.
For each screening, Doig creates painted film posters that might draw on a film’s theme, narrative or a key scene, or might just express something suggested by its title. Just as photography, scraps of images and found visual ephemera offer starting points for many of Doig’s paintings, the films offer starting points for his posters, which often end up challenging our received notions of a film. Doig’s poster for Wim Wenders’s Buena Vista Social Club (1999), for example, ‹ replaces the obvious figurative representation we associate with the film with abstract, smoky bands of colour, while Chan-wook Park’s hyper-violent Oldboy (2003) is represented by a dusky blue/grey composition that is a million miles away from the violence, but chillingly captures the 15 years of despair the kidnapped Ho Dae-su has undergone and the Kafkaesque challenge he is forced into on his release.
Marketing film posters rarely work as well as Doig’s imaginative, inventive versions. Sadly, they don’t form part of the Tate show, but they certainly form a part of the Trinidadian work in it, so to get a fuller view of this recent practice, check out the book, StudioFilmClub by Peter Doig (published by Walther König), which will be on sale in the Tate shop, or head for Port of Spain and visit the film club yourself.
Peter Doig is at Tate Britain, London SW1 from 5 February to 27 April