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Peter Doig review – sun, sea and savagery in a troubled paradise

The art of Peter Doig takes place in a troubled Arcadia, a place of sunshine, sea and deadly snakes. In his new painting Red Man (Sings Calypso) (2017) a colossal figure stands on a golden beach, his bare – reddish – torso framed by the black iron frame of a coastguard’s platform. The sea is a green band flecked with daubs of white. The pale blue sky is hollowed out by puffy cloud shapes. On the ground, a man lounges in shades with a boa constrictor wrapped around him. Is it a pet or is it strangling him? 

In the Greek legend of the Trojan War, the priest Laocoön and his sons were strangled on the beach by giant snakes. The man with the snake in Doig’s painting looks like the doomed Laocoön as depicted in classical art. Doig was a friend and collaborator with Derek Walcott, the Nobel prize-winning Caribbean poet who died this year and whose epic work Omeros transposes the myths of Homer to the West Indies. Doig’s new paintings are similarly Homeric, or Walcottian. He sees his Trinidad home as a place of giants, monsters, blind singers...

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