^ Peter Doyle, studio view. Photo: OTP.
OTP studio visits: Peter Doyle
Additional photography: Babakide Tikare ( @tikas97 )
An interview with the painter in their East London studio.
Graffiti, Cookie Mueller and Havana's Trans Communities.
Following a period living and working in Berlin as an illustrator and gallery assistant, Peter Doyle returned to the UK in 2016 to paint full-time. Instead of attending art school he set up a studio in a friend's garage and since then, Doyle's coarse and unflinching style of naive figuration has been exhibited at Atelier Maser (DUB) and Fumbally Exchange (DUB).
The following interview was recorded ahead of the artist's debut show at Cob Gallery (LDN) scheduled for March 2020.
OTP How were you first introduced to the art world in Dublin?
PD My initial way into it was my friend Keith. He’s friends with this woman called Rachel, who was a curator at IMMA (the Irish Museum of Modern Art).
Before he introduced us, I’d been living in Berlin, doing illustration stuff and painting a lot of graffiti. I wasn’t really into galleries and didn’t go to any exhibitions while I was there, apart from like the Helmut Newton archive.
When I came home, I had this itch to want to paint. I met Rachel and told her, and one of my friends heard me say that and said: ‘Oh I’ve got a little garage that you can use as a studio.’
It was like a garage that opened up onto the street in the Fruit Market in Smithfield. Very central, but it was just car-packed full of shit.
So I emptied it out, and then I started making this work and got Rachel over to come and have a look at some of the paintings.
^ Peter Doyle, Blue Moon to Barker Street, 2018, courtesy of the artist and Atelier Maser.
OTP How did the show with Atelier Maser come about?
PD I met Al Hester just from doing graffiti, back in the day. Al was like an older head, so he was always around. We kind of got friendly - Dublin’s so small, everyone kind of gets to know everyone when you get a bit older.
I think I bumped into him on the street, randomly one day in London. The gallery didn’t exist then. He didn’t even have space for it, but asked me if he got a gallery would I do a show there. I said yeah and then 2 years later it opened.
I didn’t have enough work at all then to do a solo show, so I had to knuckle down. Made a lot of paintings and just picked 7 or 8 of them.
The day the truck came to collect the work there was still wet paint on them. We had to clean them because the wood got all fucked up on the side of these gorgeous frames my friend Rubio made. He’s an amazing framer in Dublin. He has a place called Hang Tough - he’s the one.
OTP Graffiti and Illustration seem to have played a role in determining the style of the work you’re producing now. Is there much of an overlap techniques-wise?
PD Yeah there’s quite a bit of overlap. I try to paint really fast. I try to make paintings quick because if I spend too much time on something I just end up scrapping it.
I guess where the lines cross each other is the colours I like using. I used to like using vibrant colours when I was doing graffiti, and I bring that in.
But the real element of graffiti is the speed. I try and paint quick or try and work as fast as I can and then leave it for a couple of days and come back to it.
If I can do something quickly, that’s good. I’m not a meticulous detail kind of guy.
^ Peter Doyle, Stood Behind a Still Life of Fruit, 2019, courtesy of the artist. Photo: OTP.
OTP How did you get into graffiti?
PD Just in school. We’d all do graffiti on the desks and then one of your friends got like a paint marker and then we just went to town - writing on everything, trains and buses, being little shit heads.
I met my best friends from it. There was a paint and record shop in Dublin called All City. If you did graffiti everyone met there. It was that kind of community, in Dublin anyway, there was no kind of hierarchy bullshit.
Like my best buddy Josh [Gordon] here, we’re friends for nearly 10 years from graffiti and we were just working in Cuba together. Yeah, if it wasn’t for graffiti I wouldn’t have any of that, I definitely wouldn’t be painting. So it’s very important in that way.
OTP What were you working on in Cuba?
PD So basically Josh was pitching an idea to go to Cuba to make a film. And I just got a solo show confirmed in London and I thought I need to do something with that.
So Josh said: ‘Come to Cuba and just do this thing with me. We can work on the film together and I can help set up some meetings with people for drawings.’ So we were making separate work but there was some overlap.
^ Peter Doyle, studio view. Photo: Babajide Tikare.
OTP Who did you end up meeting?
PD I met a lot of nice people. But Isabella and Shayra, they are twins and both trans, they were kinda the main focus of the project.
I hadn’t made any contact with them before going out, it was all Josh, but they were very accommodating. I got like as close to them as I could while I was there and kind of tried to see them everyday.
They grew up outside the city and then came to Havana when they were like 18 or 20. Shayra writes poetry. She was reading us these brilliant poems and just telling us stories about how they live and what they’ve gone through transitioning.
A lot of good stuff has come from it despite the prejudice in Havana. They have a nice sense of community and a lot of great friends that are around them. Like they’re loved, they’re not on their own.
But then there’s a lot of bad stuff that’s happened to them as well. Horrific stories with people getting the shit kicked out of them. Some of the girls we met were sex workers. It’s illegal in Havana, so they work at night. And there’s not a lot of police presence after certain times so its kind of a free-for-all.
We stayed in touch and I’m going to try and send over some paintings, or some drawings, something I can give them.
OTP So will all the paintings for your show in London be based on the sketches you were producing in Cuba?
PD It’s not all works from Cuba. The show’s going to be a couple of paintings from Cuba and a couple of other works. Next March at Cob Gallery, I’m excited to be working with them.
^ Peter Doyle, studio view with The Clown, 2019 courtesy of the artist. Photo: Babajide Tikare.
OTP Generally speaking, are your paintings usually based on preparatory sketches? Do you work with projection at all?
PD Yeah I work with projection sometimes. It depends on what I think it needs. With the newer works I’m trying different techniques.
I’m just going directly onto the canvas and focusing first on the colours I want to work with in the background, and then focusing on the subject. If I have a subject I have taken a drawing of, sometimes I’ll photograph the drawing and then use a crayon to work with that on the canvas directly.
It’s refreshing. You don’t have to worry too much. You can just move on and then re-photograph and keep that going.
OTP Has your studio practice changed much since you came to London?
PD I’m working at a slower pace, taking my time more. In Dublin, jeez I would do like 3 paintings a week, or more, I’d be happy with them but I knew I needed to slow down and read and learn more about technique.
Because I didn’t go to art college, it’s all been trial and error. I used to buy these big canvas rolls and just make the most of them, making the works nice and big. But then coming here [London], I didn’t have a studio for the first 8 months so I was making tonnes of drawings and painting in my flat.
We had a basement in our building and it was tiny. the ceilings were this high [gestures around forehead height], so my back was constantly bent.
My other studios have always had fluorescent lighting that was fucking horrible. I have never had a studio with a window, ever. If someone gave me a studio with a window I’d probably be delighted, but I’ve never had one. You don’t miss what you never have.
^ Peter Doyle, studio view. Photo: OTP.
OTP How did the nightlife in Havana compare to London for you?
PD Everyone’s very hospitable in Havana. Some of the restaurants and bars you go to are just people’s houses. So you go into their gaff and just eat dinner at their dinner table and have a couple of drinks.
If you talk to someone in London or Dublin they think you’re coming onto them, or that you’ve got an agenda. But no one has mobile phones in Cuba. You’ve got no wifi out there, there’s no 3G, so you have to talk.
I just bummed a smoke off this dude, he was real nice and he said he’d show us around. So he brought us on the last night to this crazy club, with a live samba band, and everyone was dancing. It wasn’t like in London where everyone is so pretentious about that sort of thing.
But in London I like the pubs and I like to go to a bunch of show openings or little events if my friends are putting it on.
OTP Who is making interesting work at the moment? Do you have any particular recommendations for the reader?
I have a lot of buddies who make film and photography and my girlfriend is a photographer. Being around that is refreshing because it’s different. I think that sense of community is important.
^ Peter Doyle, Dancer With Audience, 2019, courtesy of the artist. Photo: OTP.
OTP What are you reading at the moment?
PD I'm reading Last Exit to Brooklyn. My friend gave it to me, that gave me another book before that I was obsessed with.
You know Cookie Mueller? She was an actress that was in all those John Waters films. She wrote a book of short stories called Walking Through Clear Water in a Pool Painted Black.
OTP I've been admiring the rings you’re wearing, where did they come from?
PD One’s my girlfriend’s, which I just wear. We both have Claddagh rings. It’s an Irish thing, if you’re going out with someone you wear it one way up and if you’re not you wear it the other.
And then this one I got in a pawn shop. The blue’s nice isn’t it, that’s why I picked it up.
OTP What about these boots? Do they have a cuban heel?
PD They’re old, I did take them to Cuba but it was too hot to wear them. I couldn’t wear my cuban boots in Cuba. They look like I’ve worn them so much because they’re covered in paint. I didn’t want to get them covered in paint. I was annoyed when that happened.