As part of our ongoing effort to evolve and bring you new content, we proudly present the latest in our selection of gallerist’s discussions as Gary Pressman, Director of Copro Gallery, interviews Chet Zar!
Chet Zar is one of the 21st century’s Masters of the Monster. Having worked in special effects and the film industry before moving to focus on his own creations, Chet’s limitless imagination for the beasts, freaks and strangely alluring undesirables has secured him a strong and loyal fan base around the world. His latest creations as part of the upcoming exhibit ‘Villains’ at Copro Gallery is the perfect continuation of his creepy signature creations, and Gary took the chance to interview Chet as he finalises his works for the show. Read below to discover more about ‘Villains’ and delve into the growing movement of Dark Art, the Dark Art Society and Chet’s personal influences – and see the all-important sneak peeks at Chet’s latest series of paintings!
Chet Zar’s Villains
October 13 – November 3, 2018
Saturday, October 13, 2018 | 8-11pm.
Bergamot Arts Complex, 2525 Michigan Ave T5, Santa Monica, CA 90404
Gary (Copro Gallery Director): Tell us a little about the concept for your new solo show, ‘Villains’, opening next week at Copro Gallery.
Chet: I thought I would do my take on the villain as an archetype. I’m sure most people would think that all of the monsters that I normally paint are “villains” but to my mind, that is not usually true. In any case, the idea of villains is such a juicy subject that once I thought about it, I couldn’t resist. The darker stuff has always been endlessly more fascinating to me. There is also an interesting subtext when it comes to the villain archetype, and that is that you can’t have good without evil. Evil gives value to Good and without Villains there could be no Heroes. They are an important part of the current “Duality Myth” paradigm that most of us live in. So why not honor them as such?
The exhibition’s concept is really just a jumping off point that helps direct my inspiration and once those parameters are set, I am really just painting Dy5topia characters (Dy5topia is the parallel dimension where I imagine my characters living).
Why do you create such elaborate frames and plaques for your shows?
There are really just too many reasons not to do it. It’s a natural extension of my experience of working in the film industry working with clays, molds, resins, etcetera. I have the knowledge about how to do it so it just seemed to make sense. It also gives me an opportunity to sculpt, which is something I used to get to do every day back in my makeup effects shop days, but don’t get to do as much nowadays. I love sculpting. For this show, the sculptural theme on the plaque and frame is The Devil, which is the ultimate villain archetype.
The other reason that I like to sculpt my frames is that it adds so much value to a painting. When you get one of my paintings, you get a painting AND a sculpture, which is the frame.
Devil’s head plaques
Chet and his latest collection
Tell us a little about preparing for a big show like this and all that’s involved.
The hardest part is coming up with the painting ideas so no matter how pressed I am for time, I always allow a few weeks to just sketch and make doodles to get some ideas out. I usually make lots of thumbnails, pick my favorites from the bunch, and then flesh those ideas out further. It’s a lot like designing creatures/characters for film, except that you don’t have to satisfy a director or producer; I’m the director and producer of my own work. I also consider things like: How much time do I have to create the work? How much space do I need to fill? What is an interesting theme I would like to explore?
Once the sketches are figured out, I create a small study to work the colors out and make sure it will work as a painting. Then I start the paintings. They usually start out going quickly at the inspired beginning stages but the majority of the painting process is a bit of a slog. It’s hard work! But the beginning and end stages are probably the most fun.
Are there hidden meanings in your paintings or are they mostly open to interpretation?
I paint from such an intuitive place that there are always hidden meanings that I usually end up discovering, but only after the fact. I prefer to keep my paintings a bit vague and surreal. I like that viewers can project their own feelings onto the work. It makes the art viewing experience more interactive and engaging.
The Priest – in progress
Where does your love for painting monsters originate?
It really feels genetic, like my aesthetic taste is just naturally skewed to that orientation, but I’m not 100% sure. I have a few ideas, like the fact that my grandfather used to turn all the lights off in the house and chase us around wearing a scary caveman mask when we were little kids. There was also a lot of family turmoil and trauma in my home in early childhood which made have something to do with it as well. I eventually discovered horror movies. I think I related to that feeling of fear I got from them. Combine that with an early love of drawing and painting and you get monsters! But these are all just guesses.
Is Dark Art evil?
No, it’s really just the opposite of that. We believe that we are offering viewers an opportunity, through our artwork, to confront their own inner demons. It’s also way to consider the horrors of the world and maybe even make peace with it in some strange way. Whether either of these theories are actually true or not, we are expressing what we see and in many cases we are honoring the suffering that so many of us go through on a daily basis. It is for all of these reasons that I feel like the Dark Art cause is ultimately a noble one.
Tell us a little about the Dark Art movement.
During the filming of the documentary that filmmaker Mike Correll made about me in 2013 (Chet Zar: I Like To Paint Monsters), we discovered that the community of people that were into this type of artwork was a lot bigger than any of us had imagined. I first started noticing it at tattoo conventions but subsequently social media has also really helped to get it in front of more people as well. This is a legitimate, grassroots art movement that should be taken seriously and no longer marginalized. In fact, dark subject matter has existed since the earliest days of painting, but it had always been a bit on the sidelines. Now there are more and more artists and collectors getting into it and the movement is growing. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this is happening during this dark time in US and world politics. I often say that I think that dark art, when it’s at its best, is the most appropriate style of art for the times we live in. If you are talking about reflecting the general mood of the population or the world around you (especially in the US), Dark Art sums it up better than anything else out there, even better than political protest art.
We eventually started a podcast called The Dark Art Society Podcast where we try and galvanize the movement by interviewing other artists, discussing issues that affect dark artists and offering resources for dark artists and collectors to help create a sense of community. It has steadily kept increasing in popularity since its inception, which is more proof that this is a growing movement in its beginning stages.
What’s the difference between showing in galleries and showing online?
There is really no comparison between seeing work online and seeing it in person. It’s like the difference between listening to a live album and seeing a band live. While the internet has been extremely helpful in offering a way for artists to earn a living by connecting collectors directly with artists, nothing will ever replace the gallery experience. I don’t care how good or high resolution the imagery gets or if they start showing work online in VR – the gallery will always win that fight when it comes to creating an event that allows people to see the work up close and in person. Not only do you get to see every brush stroke and really feel the energy of a piece of artwork in a gallery, you also get the communal experience of interacting with other fans of the artwork as well as the artists who create the work. It’s an important piece of the art experience and for that reason it will always have an integral place in the art world. And the more personally disconnected we continue to get due to the internet and social media, the more important the gallery will be in the future.
What are your plans for future shows?
I’ll always have more ideas than I will know what to do with. I have an amazing idea for a huge conceptual museum show that will cost millions of dollars to finance. It’s something I plan to do in the next five years and will be EPIC. On a more short term goal, I would love to do an all-sculpture show. I have never exclusively done a sculpture solo show but I have probably sculpted more in my career than I have painted. I think it would be an incredible exhibition!
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