Monday, January 24, 2011

Esthetic Wanderlust

(Peter Doig, Paragon, 2004, big)

Also on artcritical, you can listen to an opinionated conversation about the celebrity painter Peter Doig. Most of the panel members are scathing about his compositions, subject matter and technique: is it not simply obsolete, if not arrogant, to emulate Gauguin on a far off island in this day and age?

That said, at the end of the discussion, it is concluded that Doig does not so much paint about his subject, as he does use his subject to stake out a position; a position about what painting is for him, or about the psychology of western artmaking. His position, whether he knows it or not, is that he is lost.

I think I could say that my drawings are not about the subject either, but more the result of an approach. Outside the studio, I am well aware that I have only minimal control of my life. When drawing, I recreate this non-control, but can watch myself wrangle with it; I can watch myself take risks, fail, succeed and attempt to organize, as subjective as these terms are. This essentially means that I think drawing is a place to struggle to define. And yet I never can, because I’m always moving to the next thing. And besides, definition is temporary.

Moving to the next thing is esthetic wanderlust. So, in the end, Doig and I share something in common. We are like every other productive person of privilege of our times: searching without a distinct cause, impatient, fickle. And sometimes effective to some.

Does any of this help you see what’s in front of you? No. But it’s food for thought, especially when you’re grantwriting.

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