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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Life imitating Art or the Aesthetics of Disaster / Peter Doig and the Japanese catastrophy


Harbour at Ishinomaki - photo Reuters

Peter Doig - Ski Jacket (detail), 1994, oil on canvas, 295x351cm


A year ago a triple catastrophe hit the North-East coast of Japan. After the earthquake, after the tsunami, there was, and still is, the ongoing nuclear disaster in Fukushima.
In the days and weeks directly following, a stream of images came to us by television, printed media and internet. As disturbing and shocking these images were, they were fascinating at the same time. In a way one couldn't stop looking at those horrific pictures and videos. Probably because the sheer force of nature would leave us paralyzed and in awe... Somehow it was just unimaginable that this would happen in real life; one catastrophe would follow another, and another. Something you would only know from apocalyptic films, now happened in real time on our computer and TV screens. I remember the images of the black tsunami swapping over a boardwalk, swallowing cars, busses, basically everything that was on its path.
At the time I happened to be researching paintings of Peter Doig (b. 1959), a critically acclaimed (and commercially successful) contemporary artist. I love his work for the colours, the layers, the structures, their space and the often eery atmosphere. Although Doig's work is often inspired by the landscapes of his youth, Canada, and by his current place of living, Trinidad; and although he has been painting such sceneries since the early 1990's, it struck me that many of the images from the Fukushima disaster looked like Doig paintings having come alive.
At first I thought this might be chance. But when I started looking at more photos and putting them alongside Doig's paintings, I was intrigued by the many parallels. That is when I prepared this blog post.
Still, it felt perverse to look at disaster pictures in an aesthetical way, where the catastrophy was still unfolding. At that point, a year ago, I decided not to publish it.
Now, a year later, looking back at those same images and the media picking up on it once again, it seems relevant to post it at last. This time it is shocking to realize how much we have gotten used to the imagery. It must be the inflation effect of the ongoing stream of media images that we encounter every day. A friend compared it to pornography; the pornography of disaster. One is hooked, thrilled, at times disgustedly intrigued, shamefully exited, but it also leaves you numb after a while.
This hardly ever happens to me when looking at art.



[For slide show click photos to enlarge]

Ferry swept on roof top by tsunami - photo AP

Peter Doig - Okahumkee (Some other peoples blues), 1990, 203x240cm, oil on canvas, Kunsthalle zu Kiel

Ruins in the city of Kesennuma - photo Reuters

Peter Doig - Briey (Concrete Cabin), 1994-6, oil on canvas, 277x188cm

 Sports ground in the Iwate prefecture - photo Reuters

Peter Doig - The Heart of Old San Juan, 1999, oil on canvas, 250x195.5cm

Peter Doig - Red Boat (Imaginary Boys), 2004, oil on canvas, 200x186cm

Rescue workers discovered a man who had been swept out into the Pacific Ocean - photo AP / Defense Ministry

Peter Doig - Lunker, 1995, oil on canvas, 200x266cm 

Peter Doig - The House that Jack Built, 1992, oil on canvas, 200x250cm

In the destroyed city of Natori a survivor stands on the ruins of his home - photo DPA

Peter Doig - Red House, 1995-96, oil on canvas, 200x275

photo AP / Kyodo News via Spiegel.de

Houses swept by a tsunami smoulder near Sendai Airport in Japan - photo Reuters

Peter Doig - Swamped, 1990, oil on canvas, 197x241cm

Sendai Airport - photo Reuters / Kyodo

Peter Doig - White Canoe, 1990-1, oil on canvas, 200.5 x 243cm 

Houses in Sendai in the Miyagi prefecture - photo AP / Kyodo

Peter Doig - Jetty,1994, oil on canvas, 200x248cm

photo Reuters via Spiegel.de
Peter Doig - Pink Snow, 1991 -oil on canvas, 243.5x198cm

Peter Doig - White Creep, oil on canvas, 290 x 199cm

photo AFP

Peter Doig - Saint Anton (Flat Light), 1995-96, oil on canvas, 275x275cm

Photo AP

 Peter Doig - The Architects Home in the Ravine, oil on canvas, 200 x 275cm

The damaged roof of reactor number No. 1 at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant - Reuters

Peter-Doig - Bird House (small) 1995, oil on canvas - 40.6x30.5cm

Wohngebiet in Sendai - Reuters

Peter Doig - Camp Forestia, 1996, oil on canvas, 170x170cm

photo Reuters

Peter Doig - Pine House (Rooms for Rent), 1994, oil on canvas

Peter Doig - Lapeyrouse Wall, 2004, oil on canvas, 200x250.5cm

A man looks over the area submerged in water from the tsunami in Soma - AP Kyodo News

Peter Doig - Almost Grown, 2000, oil on canvas, 200x295cm

An almost surreal sight in Shiogama, Miyagi prefecture - DPA

Peter Doig - Baked, 1990, oil on canvas, 182x235cm



All paintings © Peter Doig
All photos via internet, march 2011




4 comments:

Jassem Hindi said...

Thank you for this extensive presentation of Doig.

mfk said...

thanks jassem, happy to hear.

Pedro Ferro said...

Excellent post!

mfk said...

thanks!