In Edinburgh, Peter Doig’s imminent exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery is being billed as a kind of homecoming. They even have a “Doig menu” available at the gallery restaurant. Given that he was born in the city, but left when he was two, and that his art has always been informed by his inveterate desire to keep moving from place to place – he currently lives in Trinidad, following two long stints in London separated by a spell in Canada – it must feel odd to suddenly find himself referred to as a Scottish artist.
“It does a bit,” he says, grinning. “When I was growing up, I never felt that I belonged anywhere because we never lived in a house for more than three months. That’s all I knew and that’s why I don’t really belong anywhere. Then again, I do feel Scottish in some way. Maybe it’s to do with visiting my grandparents here every summer as a child, but I am aware of my Scottish ancestry. It’s there all right, but it would be pushing it to label me a Scottish painter. Or, indeed, an anywhere painter.”
Yet a sense of place is one of the key determinants of Doig’s art. Since his move from London to Trinidad in 2002, his paintings have become richer in hue and even more vivid in their evocation of atmosphere and memory, both his own personal memory and that of the artists his work calls to mind, from Cézanne and Daumier to the German expressionists of the 1920s. In one of the smaller rooms, a recent big work, entitled Paragrand, features three silhouetted figures playing cricket, each one receding more into a vivid, indeterminate backdrop where sand, sea and foliage merge into one. It seems to vibrate with intensity even from a distance, a huge, flat swath of shimmering orange at the centre, altering all the other colours around it.