Film and music are just as much part of Peter Doig’s everyday life as are his family, painting and socialising and discussing with friends. Born in Scotland in 1959, Doig’s painterly oeuvre is one of the most influential of his generation of artists. It is therefore not surprising that shortly after moving from London to Port-of-Spain in Trinidad with his Trinidadian artist-friend Che Lovelace he opened a film club in his studio. He did so first of all, because Cineplex movie theaters are fast taking over Port-of-Spain, too, and thus not only are the arthouse cinemas who do not focus on Hollywood output gradually disappearing, and secondly because the two wished to create a place in which alongside the broad range of experiences for cineastes there would also be any number of opportunities for mingling music and discussion in an unpretentious, spontaneous and generously sized place. Since April 2003, Peter Doig and Che Lovelace present films once a week that their friends send them or which they pick up on their travels – in the private setting of the studio, but with the open mind-set of a club event, and thus discussions, the bar, or even on occasion a concert can mark the equally important beginning, the break, or the end of a joint film evening. The program includes film classics as well as indie, music and art films, not to mention current Hollywood productions. Inspired by the hand-painted ad posters that caught his eye on billboards in Port-of-Spain, Doig paints a poster, usually on the day of the screening, for each film – it is then pinned up somewhere on the grounds of the cultural center where Peter Doig has his studio. These paintings are pointers and an information tool, but also typical Peter Doig pieces, in which the filmic element so typical of his oeuvre, in particular the quality of evoking the viewer’s imagination, is doubled and intensified by the reference to a specific film; be it because he takes a key scene he remembers as the motif, or associates something quite freely with the film’s content, or introduces variations on the iconography of his own painterly oeuvre.
© Photo: Stefan Altenburger Photography
© Photo: Stefan Altenburger Photography
The film posters are therefore not only direct pointers to the particular film they announce, but also always function as parallel instruments of the imagination. Peter Doig’s oeuvre is well known for the way it intertwines a wide-ranging archive of found images, photos he has taken himself, techniques, moods, titles, and theme from music and art history. These are not taken as models, but can be repeatedly recombined and sampled, functioning as triggers or items of information, used and experienced by the artist as manifold fields of inspiration and techniques for generating images that ensure that in his work photography, film, music and painting are always simultaneously present. In Peter Doig’s paintings only one single film still ever crops up in variations as a direct reference to a film, namely a lonely figure in a canoe on an even more solitary and threatening lake. The motif originates from that classic horror film “Friday the 13th” and has put in an appearance in many of Peter Doig’s paintings, and starting with “Swamped” (1990) via “Canoe Lake” (1997-8) through to “100 Years ago (Carrera)” (2002) not only expands the paintings to include a film still but also expands the reach of art history references in painting. For his film poster for Marcel Camus’ “Orfeo Negro (Black Orpheus)”, Doig again chose his solitary canoeist and adds further aspects to his repeated painterly motif both for the painting and for the associations it offers to the film. Although Peter Doig’s film posters are not produced as artworks, for him (and for us, too) they come round full circle to artistic oeuvre, precisely because what is for him usually only the initial or associative level of cinema is now superimposed onto a direct reference to a real film and thus presented in a new combination.
The exhibition in Kunsthalle Zürich presents 75 of the film posters that Doig has made to date together with a selection of films that were screened at StudioFilmclub. Parallel to this, the Arthouse Cinemas will present a further set of films shown at StudioFilmClub as part of the local cinema program.
The exhibition attaches an equal weighting to the StudioFilmClub’s program for cineastes and to the importance of Peter Doig’s film posters. The films are not shown in cinema-like screenings with only one viewing, but are screened continuously in five different rooms, and are thus as accessible as the film posters.
When selecting the films for the show, Peter Doig and Che Lovelace focused in particular on the range of offerings for cineastes in Zürich, which with its diversity of arthouse movie theaters provides a broad spectrum of filmic experiences. They have chosen films that reflect the specific context of Trinidad as a production venue or the location for films. These frequently endeavor not to marginalize the local culture, strongly influenced by Creolity, as something exotic, and also do not succumb to some affirmative exoticism by simply opting for a critique of exoticism. On show will be reviews of the filmic oeuvre of Trinidadian filmmaker and the pioneer of “Black British Cinemas” Horace Ové, who emigrated to London, films from the 1950s made by Satyatt Ray, and an overview of Isaac Julien’s films (such as “Baadasssss Cinema”, 2002) – alongside numerous other films. The extensive program of films showing at the Kunsthalle and in the Arthouse Cinemas will be announced on the Kunsthalle’s homepage in due time. Details can be requested by email.
Special thanks for their generous support go to:
Präsidialdepartement der Stadt Zürich, Luma Stiftung
Special thanks go to Museum Ludwig, Kasper König and to Alice Koegel, the curator of the exhibition there, whose research and preparatory work has enabled us to organize this film program. Our thanks also go to the organization who has kindly loaned us works for the exhibition, namely the Rheingold Collection, whose initial purchase of 35 film posters secures the future of the StudioFilmClub in Trinidad.