Coming this October to the Copro Gallery, Chet Zar will open his latest solo show “Lilith”. Ever since his last body of work at the “When Worlds Collide” exhibition, I have been very excited to see where this new direction in his work would take him. Most notably, his color palette had changed and a new painting that featured a female figure was shown. One of the recent criticisms I have heard is how many artists seem stuck in one mode of creation, seeming to churn out what looks like an endless supply of rehashed, slightly modified and worse yet predictable works of art. This is surely not the case with Chet Zar. Once you think you have his direction in your cross hairs he takes you into a completely new world. I was very lucky to be able to snag Chet for a mini interview, as well as post a few teaser images of what we will see this coming October 3rd.
CM. So far you have only created three works that feature female characters, “Gretchen”, “Mother” and the latest “Succubus”. Can you tell us about the inspiration to create a new body of work that seems centered around female figures?
Chet: I was thinking about my next Copro show and had been thinking about the Lilith myth as the theme. Gary Pressman at Copro Gallery had mentioned it to me before and I read up on it. Lilith has a long and rich history in a number of cultures. She is the Mesopotamian storm demon, associated with night birds, desolate desert landscapes and wind and was thought to be the bearer of disease, illness and death. Of course this sounded like a great subject for me to take on. But in later folklore, she is regarded as the first feminist (due to her rejection of Adam’s sexual dominance in the Garden of Eden, before Eve). This was like icing on the cake. So I decided to try and blend some of those ideas with my own.
It was really just a good excuse to paint females, something that I rarely do, as you mentioned. I have a much easier time painting ugly things that are either androgynous or slightly masculine. I don’t know why. So I looked on it as a challenge and really got into it. It’s a fun series of paintings.
CM. One of the things that I have always loved about your works, is the texture that the paint seems to have. Paintings such as “Grimm” and “Sad Little Monkey” share the same visual texture of something like rust. You latest works, and especially these new pieces look a bit smoother. I this something you have been finding yourself going towards, or was it more that the texture fit the more feminine content?
Chet: It wasn’t a conscious decision based on my subject matter. If anything it’s more of me trying to make an effort to paint more towards my own inclinations. I really enjoy playing with texture, but I have a tendency to blend and paint lots of details. I fought against this for a long time because of the more impressionistic painters I admire. It’s not a way of painting that comes naturally to me, but I would like to master it. But in this series (as well as in my “When Worlds Collide” show to some degree) I didn’t worry so much about how I should paint. I just let myself paint a little more naturally. I love texture, though, and am already going in a more textured way with some new studies I have been working on. I go back and forth on stuff like that.
CM. Although I am a huge fan of warmer color palettes, I am hooked on the new cooler colors that you have been using. Has new color palette altered your working process a bit, possibly giving a different type of inspiration than previous works?
Chet: The new color palette is loosely based on old 60’s pulp style horror illustrations. I initially was going for cooler colors and that glow in the dark green and purple colors that you see on the old Aurora monster model box covers (painted by James Bama). That period or illustration really had an effect on me as a child. I love the mood it conveys. You can see traces of it in the paintings but it did develop a little differently as time went on during the painting process, which is preferable in my opinion. Initially, I thought the painting process would be a little more straightforward, since I really paid attention to color prep. I pre mixed most of my colors, which I don’t often do. But in the end I went back to my old ways a bit, with lots of scumbling and glazing to get the hues right.
CM: I know that one of the paintings is inspired by Lilith, a character that has many stories surrounding her. I love the idea of using a classic character to build off of. Is this something we might see more of from you?
Chet: I am actually kind of inspired at this point to do a Lilith 2 show in the future because the myth has a lot of interesting ideas that I wasn’t able to incorporate in this series. But choosing a solid theme and painting to that theme is something that I really enjoy (as long as I get to choose the theme). I wasn’t able to do that earlier in my career because I was painting at night while working in the day. There wasn’t enough time to paint let alone find a subject and do the research for a show. So, working within my means, I would rely solely on my intuition for my subjects, and kind of tie them together as I painted. I still do this whenever I paint, but having someplace to start from can be helpful. What I really like about it most is that when you tie yourself to a theme it forces you to think outside of your comfort zone, which in turn can give you a lot of new ideas and paths that you may not have followed otherwise, and that is exciting to me. So to answer your question- yes.
CM: Finally, looking at previews of these new paintings I was not only excited about the colors, textures and content, but also that it seemed like a whole new world had opened up. Was there any point during these new paintings that you might have felt different or more energized than by your previous pieces?
Chet: The color aspect really excited me the most. I have a tendency to paint in muted earth tones. I think that comes from my background in make up effects. A lot of what I did was based on Caucasian actors, so I got really comfortable with those tones and colors. It’s pretty incredible how much you can learn about color from years of painting bruises, diseased flesh and wounds. But I am also a huge Beksinski fan so that probably had something to do with it as well. In any case, the prospect of working in a more dynamic palette was just fun. And that’s ultimately why I paint- because it’s so damn fun!
Ok, thanks to Chet for taking the time to answer these questions. If you are in the area make sure you stop by the show, or head on over and take a look at the show now online.
Chet Zar @ Copro Gallery