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First major survey of Peter Doig's work in North America opens at The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
Peter Doig, 100 Years Ago (Carrera), 2001. Oil on linen, 229 x 359 cm. Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI. Photo Jochen Littkemann.
MONTREAL.- The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts presents Peter Doig: No Foreign Lands, the first major exhibition of the artist’s work since his mid‐career retrospective shown at Tate Britain, London; Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris; and Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt in 2008 but also the first exhibition of its kind to be presented in North America. This landmark event is part of an ambitious season of contemporary art exhibitions at the MMFA.

“With his oeuvre deeply rooted in a tradition that goes back to Gauguin, Bonnard and Munch, Peter Doig gives us a beautiful, contemplative and mysterious glimpse into the secrets of the painter’s craft, which finds its true home in a museum of fine art,” says MMFA’s Director and Chief Curator Nathalie Bondil.

Peter Doig: No Foreign Lands is a co‐production of the MMFA and the National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh, where it was on view in the summer and fall of 2013 and met with great critical success. The exhibition will make only one stop in North America, at the MMFA. For the Scottish painter, presenting the exhibition in the two cities that have played a vital role in his life as an artist – Edinburgh, where he was born and Montreal, where he spent some of his youth and where he returned to as an adult – is deeply meaningful.

“To be exhibiting in Montreal, where I have lived, worked and have great fondness for means a lot to me. My time in Quebec as a child during the Expo, through my young teens and then again my 20's in Montreal, were formative years in the development of my paintings. I know the museum's rooms from childhood, so to be exhibiting in them now is a great privilege,” said Doig.

Over a career of nearly three decades, Doig has reinvigorated a medium considered by many to have fallen into irrelevance. His inventive style, uncommonly sensuous palette and suggestive imagery have set him apart from many of his contemporaries. A willingness to take up the challenge still posed by the paintings of Gauguin, Matisse, Bonnard, Marsden Hartley and Edward Hopper places Doig in a long line of great colourists, expressive handlers of paint and creators of richly textured worlds.

Peter Doig: No Foreign Lands is the first exhibition devoted to the artist’s output since he returned to Trinidad in 2000 for an artist residency and then settled there in 2002. The move marked a turning point in his painting. As fellow Scot Robert Louis Stevenson wrote in The Silverado Squatters: “There are no foreign lands. It is the traveller only who is foreign.”

During the period covered by the works in this exhibition, Doig, while based in Trinidad, has also divided his time between London, New York and Düsseldorf. Having left Edinburgh as a small child, his peripatetic life and memories of growing up in Canada, before studying and living in London for 20 years, have given Doig a particularly rich visual knowledge and archive of motifs, which he draws from continually in his work.

Exhibition curator Stéphane Aquin noted: “Over the course of his many departures and returns, now dividing his time between Trinidad and New York, Doig has accomplished a long voyage that took him from the souks of Tangiers to abstraction, from a reverie of unexplored inner worlds to the configuration of the debris that history has left in its wake. What paths, one asks oneself, must a painter still take when no land is strange to him?”

The exhibition will present over a hundred works executed over the past fourteen years, including forty major paintings. These diverse works, at once austere and monumental, beautiful and spontaneous, are the end result of a series of sketches and adaptations. Doig’s highly unusual approach to pictorial composition will be explored by displaying preparatory works and finished paintings side by side. This original presentation will also include studies, personal documents and an extensive selection of film club posters and explore the artist’s use of recurrent images.

Few exhibition spaces are as well suited to display the oeuvre of Peter Doig as the great classical galleries of the Michal and Renata Hornstein Pavilion. These galleries, dating from 1912, were designed for salon painting characteristic of the late‐nineteenth and early‐twentieth centuries, a period in painting that Doig acknowledges as an influence. His work follows in the great tradition of artists that include Bonnard, Matisse, Gauguin and Munch, but also of James Wilson Morrice and Tom Thomson, Canadian painters he admires, and of Wifredo Lam and Armando Reverón, the celebrated Cuban and Venezuelan artists. If there exists a legitimate successor to these great masters, Doig is widely held to be the one.

The exhibition unfolds like a voyage, a descent into the secrets of Doig’s creative process and into the imagination that inhabits his canvases and makes them so evocative. From one gallery to the next, visitors will discover Doig’s world of painting and how he explores its expressive potential, narrative power and its history with consummate virtuosity. Scenes from everyday life, tropical landscapes, visions of ghostly beings, solitary figures, boats, forests, walls – for Doig, all subjects are opportunities to commit himself fully to the act of painting. At times, he can take years to complete a canvas, and he often returns to the same subject. The exhibition features a number of “pairs” of works, paintings that share a similar motif but were not conceived of in series. These pairings, brought together in many instances for the first time, testify to the artist’s sense of obsession and inventiveness.

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