A big focking honky bat – Art at the Tate


The painter and his subject, Man dressed as Bat at the Tate in London earlier this year where half his work were on show

Not long ago, a conversation with the artist, Embah disclosed details over Peter Doig’s resent painting called, Man dressed as Bat. The character is quoted from the traditional carnival mas from Trinidad and Tobago, and is a portrayal of a man masked in a bat costume. The history of Mr. Doig’s subject may be from a small sculpture which Embah had made. From his resent trip to Paris for Peter Doig’s first major exposition at Musée d’Art moderne, Embah was able to examine the painter and his intuitive representation of the flying mammal in which, Peter was capable of capturing the nuances of a man playing in a white bat costume without having any prior knowledge of a deeper upstanding of what the performance really meant.

Man dressed as Bat is life-sized white bat with his wings outstretched and noticeably fluttering. The painting looks muted in colour as the main figure appears to be a white-washed of the bat standing in wet sand, and posed in front of a beach. The residue and scuffing, Doig explains during the interview for the Tate is the natural elements such as rain from his studio in Port of Spain, Trinidad. The painter is a bit stiff during the interview, but he seems overwhelmed over the body of work which he has produced since 1989. It is the places which these paintings were conceived that satisfies his accomplishment. He ends by saying he is not sure where this work may take him, perhaps to a large and permanent fresco?

A shy Peter Doig explains his work at the Tate

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The Bookmann recently sent me a video short of Peter Doig being interviewed at The Tate for a show he had there. It is a pleasure to see his work in that space, before the actual show. To watch him talk about his process and to show his etchings. One gets an insight into the quiet, thoughtful man that he is. His work is extremely evolved and you can see why Che Lovelace, the Trinidadian artist who worked with him at his studio club, would be so very influenced by Doig’s painting style.

Doig paints large and commands paint in a way that makes it an event, and you can see Mr. Lovelace’s homage at a trendy bar in Woodbrook, Trinidad. Yet, there is only ever one Doig. There is something ethereal and tense in his work. It is not just the placements of colur, that does break up the space in such a way that the eye is stilled at certain points. It is also the size of the shapes that he uses. He generally paints one person, or melds together a variety of dusky colours to express a home or a bridge. He paints the mundane, but something in his work, a bit like Edward Hopper in the middle on the nineteenth century, produces canvases loaded with the unanswerable reality of the everyday.

Very easily his work can represent a complete story that changes again and again. He stands before his latest work that he calls Bats, and he tells the viewer that he has allowed the canvas to experience the weather elements and allowed the paint to become as transparent as possible. This is an interesting direction for him to be taking at this time. If he pursues this direction, his painting shall become even more dreamy in nature. To decide to work that way shall push his large canvases into an area of abstraction that I believe he can definitely pull off. The fact that his expression is focused in Trinidad and Tobago and he is producing art without much distraction, is remarkable in that this painter is making very important work, and Trinidad and Tobago factors into this importance.

Strangely enough, I think of the social painter from the turn of the last century in Trinidad, Michel Cazabon who painted our island in an almost anthropological way. His works are lorded as the only known and thus, most relevant art coming out of Trinidad and Tobago at that time. Is it also possible that Mr. Doig is our twenty-first century Cazabon? – Adele

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