Quote of Note | Peter Doig

“The first [poster for his cinema StudioFilmClub project in Port of Spain, Trinidad] I did was for Black Orpheus, actually, a few films in. I had started a painting, a study that I had kind of abandoned, of a black man in a boat. It was from this Duane Allman record cover, An Anthology—this image from the gatefold sleeve, with eight figures in a boat. One of them was the drummer, Jaimoe [Johanson], the only black guy in the band, and I started this painting of him, just Jaimoe, floating in a boat. I abandoned it. But then I was thinking about posting a poster for the film on the notice board here—this was when the space was the Caribbean Contemporary Arts Center; lots of artists were working here. It felt important to do something in the building, to have a weekly thing. And the film was Black Orpheus; I already had this figure in the boat seeing himself in the water. It was like Cocteau’s use of reflection to suggest entry into the underworld. So I just painted on it TONITE, BLACK ORPHEUS, STUDIO FILM CLUB and put it up. That was the first poster.

I love [hand-painted signage]. But I think it’s dying, all over the world; the technology has become so cheap. Five years ago it was cheaper to pay a guy to spend ten hours in the hot sun, painting a Stag bottle on a wall as advertising: now you can just print one up. It’s tragic—but I think it’s happened all over: in India, Africa. You see these large plastic signs going up where you once saw hand-painted ones. But when I came back to Trinidad, one of the things I was so attracted to here were these signs on the street. Often the wording was quite abstract to the outsider—NO DRAWER, BLACK AND WHITE, SOCA EXPRESS. These signs just punctuated by words. And words you can see from a distance, words in color. And with this language, too—I loved it.”

Peter Doig, interviewed by Joshua Jelly-Schapiro in the March-April issue of The Believer