Solitary figures are a recurring motif in Doig’s work. Here an anonymous man with a pink umbrella walks down a street accompanied only by the shadow he casts. This quiet urban moment could almost be a scene painted by Edward Hopper, with its lone, cipherlike figure and late afternoon sunlight. Art historian Bernhard Schwenk has written that in engaging with Doig’s paintings viewers “become tourists in the reaches of their own inner worlds.”
However, the title of this painting suggests that the wall is as important a protagonist as the figure. Lapeyrouse Cemetery is an eighteenth-century burial ground in Port of Spain, Trinidad, named after the settler who established the first sugar estate on the island. The crumbling wall is a visual reminder of the multilayered past of this former British colony, which relied heavily on slave labor. The wall may represent a personal site of memory as well: a transnational artist, Doig was born in Scotland, lived in Trinidad for six years as a small child, passed his adolescence in rural Quebec, spent much of his adult life in London, and returned to Trinidad in 2002, where he continues to live today. Although Doig often creates fictive landscapes, the wall imparts a sense of place and history to this work. While the figure moves forward in the painting, in many ways we, the viewers, are carried back in time.
Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights since 1980, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2007, p. 267.