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Grand Riviere
© Peter Doig / Victoria Miro Gallery

Peter Doig
Grand Riviere, 2001-02
Oil on canvas
228.8 x 358.4 cm
Purchased 2003

Grand Riviere is Peter Doig's first painting set in Trinidad, where he now lives. It is a tropical and somewhat exotic looking scene. During a visit to Trinidad in the summer of 2000, he took a number of photographs of the lagoon in Grand Riviere, where he found a white horse on a beach surrounded by a flock of corbou. Doig painted the scene in his studio when he returned to London.

The artist usually submits all his source imagery - his own photographs, family snapshots, postcards, or other found images - to subsequent processes. Sometimes he photocopies photos, then photocopies the photocopy; at other times he sketches or paints over a photograph. When painting Grand Riviere, Doig relied on several photographs he had taken, as well as his memory of the place. He paints the scene with an exaggerated lushness and humidity. Typically for Doig, the landscape is divided into horizontal sections. The thick, undulating green forest and the ultramarine and dark-blue bands of water are strangely illuminated by the moonlight and stars. The way paint is applied and the intensity of colours perfectly capture a hot and muggy environment. As with most of the artist's paintings, there is something disturbing about the picture.

While Doig's canvases, like much contemporary landscape, might be understood to depict the ruins of modernity, the shift from a resource-based economy to a post-industrial one, and a dystopic critique of progress, they also possess something much more ambiguous. Doig's pictures often seem to represent a particular place, or a place that has deep personal significance, but over and above this, his paintings evoke a mood, and one not easily described.

While living in London, Peter Doig rarely painted scenes of the immediate vicinity: the locations that appealed to him were at some remove. Many of his early paintings depicted places in Canada or places that looked Canadian. These seemingly northern "elsewheres" were often snowbound. With respect to this body of work, Doig speaks with ease, like few artists in Canada today, about the influence of artists such as David Milne, the Group of Seven, and Paterson Ewen. With Grand Riviere, Doig is again looking beyond the confines of London, but this time in a southerly direction. It is as if he were following in the footsteps of another Canadian painter, James Wilson Morrice (1865-1924). Morrice travelled to North Africa (like his friend Matisse) and the West Indies in search of bright light and colour. Despite his extensive travels, Morrice maintained his links to Canada; he is understood to be the first Canadian artist to gain international recognition, and is also responsible for introducing a type of modern painting in Canada. Not surprisingly, Doig has been influenced by both Morrice and Matisse and has merged the kinds of modernism and internationalism each represents.