In 2003, the painter Peter Doig held a series of film screenings at his studio in Port of Spain, Trinidad. These were informal social events, with a self-service bar, no advance programme and no entry fee. To announce each film, Doig produced a poster in oil-paint on paper. These posters were subsequently purchased by the Rheingold Collection, and exhibited under much more formal conditions at Cologne’s Museum Ludwig in 2005. This book, produced to accompany the show, includes a full-page reproduction of each poster, interspersed with grainy photographs of the original studio screenings.
A sort of film-buff visual artist’s Desert Island Discs, STUDIOFILMCLUB may be considered as a variation on the now familiar crossover between art and popular culture. Mainstream Hollywood hits such as Pearl Harbor and Zoolander are not represented in Doig’s posters. In contrast to the US filmmaker John Waters—a flagrant connoisseur of trash who reputedly indulges in guilty visits to screenings of films by Marguerite Duras and Pier Paolo Pasolini—Doig is not at all ashamed of his taste for all things highbrow. This results in a somewhat predictable array of art-house films, canonised Hollywood classics and music documentaries.
But although the choice of films isn’t terribly inspired, the motifs with which Doig represents them are often surprising and inventive. The impromptu nature of the project allows a loose, subjective style which is, on the whole, uncharacteristic of film promotion. Doig often avoids direct reference to the films (an interesting exception being the image for Rocco and his Brothers, with its dripping chiaroscuro portrait of Alain Delon, based on a film still). For Gus Van Sant’s Elephant, a cartoon pachyderm with an elongated trunk serves as the graphic, whilst the image for 101 Reykjavik is almost obliterated by a sub-pointillist depiction of snow. The posters for Don’t Look Now and The Vanishing translate the dark heart of psychological horror into lurid, sinuous forms reminiscent of Munch or Toulouse-Lautrec.
The book includes three texts. The foreword by Kasper König describes the evolution of the project at the Museum Ludwig, while Nicholas Laughlin writes about his own experience of the original screenings, recalling the ad hoc conditions and the sociable atmosphere. A third essay by Alice Koegel relates the posters to Doig’s practice as a whole, to broader art-historical sources, and to elements of Trinidad sub-culture—including the hand-painted concert posters which line the roads near Doig’s studio.
Laurence Figgis is an artist living in Glasgow