Archive

Monthly Archives: March 2015

Autocorrect

AutoCorrect, 2014

Casting

Casting, 2014

13-96

13-96, 2013

Untitled

Untitled, 2014

Untitled (12-43)

Untitled (12-43), 2012

Untitled (Ox-Bow suite)

Untitled (Ox-Bow Suite), 2010

New work, 2015

INTERVIEW WITH PETER SHEAR

How long have you been painting? 

I painted from the usual early age until adolescence when I became discouraged by perceived limitations. A few years later the desire to paint returned and around 1999 I felt I might be able to contribute something, which at 19 was premature and maybe insane. The lost years: When I was 12 I wanted to make political cartoons and a little later was into ‘film’ and running around with a video camera. But I’m not collaborative or energetic enough; what I like is to be in a room alone and then after a while bring my alone to the people.

 Who are your favorite artists?

I like artists with secret passageways. I like artists in secret passageways. Artists willing to complicate our understanding of their work as a whole. Ones addressing the smartest people in the room who don’t necessarily turn others away in the process. Cézanne is my favorite dead guy artist. Justin Rhody is a photographer in Oakland people should discover. Keith Allyn Spencer, Ellen Siebers, Alison Hall, Steven Husby, Max Manning, Susan Bee, Kim Westfall, Brian Cypher, T.j. Donovan, Erin Drew, Sarah Gamble, Mariano Chavez, Lauren Collings, Matthew Wong, Kristina Lee, William Staples, Clinton King, John Berry, David Leggett, Osamu Kobayashi, Cody Tumblin, Jessica Simorte, Brian Edmonds, Ezra Tessler, Lucy Mink, Jared Buckhiester, Julie Torres, Tatiana Berg, and Robert Otto Epstein get me and might be worth your time. And many more.

 How do you begin your paintings? 

Begin with the last painting, check for clues… misdirection counts. Often if I think I have a smart idea it backfires so I make some marks and have a look and respond. I turn supports around a lot and sometimes that’s the end. Whether paintings take a long time to paint or a little they almost always end abruptly, more so than they began. A blank canvas or piece of paper is such a drag, a mocking thing. To mess it up a little goes a long way towards resolution.

 Why do you make abstract paintings?

Because: the sex is better. But I don’t think of my paintings as abstract. I used to. Then suddenly there were figures and parts of figures and I looked around and abstract friends were painting dogs and ships and self-portraits and language and collaging Picassos onto their work and so on and I relaxed. We’re probably no longer well-served by the word ‘abstract’ but once the work is out of the studio I can’t do a thing about terminology and that’s as it should be. What a relief we don’t HAVE to arrange for meaning! And how should I know, anyway? And lots of luck to those that try. As artists we’re poorly positioned to see what we’re doing– we can’t define use-value for ourselves, that’s only for other artists to determine. Institutions not so much. There are probably more Mondrians in 2015 than there are theosophists. With regard to my body of work (more like body parts) I think I’m a product of sampling culture, a scanning Internet thing. I understand my peers similarly. Painting-as-critique doesn’t interest me. In part this is a luxury of circumstance and I try to be mindful of that. But painting for me is more of an archaeological thing. Loosen your clothing and drink plenty of water. Live a long time.

 What are you interests beside art?

Weekdays I do custodial work in a public school from 4:00 until midnight and so I have a professional interest in that, which is not-art, but is sometimes close to art. Lately I’ve been watching old episodes of Dr. Katz on YouTube. I was married last October and my wife and I have a lot of fun together. 

How often do you paint?

I think I paint a lot, usually mornings and afternoons. Recently there was a three week pause and the work is better now that it’s resumed. The painting activity (never practice, gross) extends beyond painting to looking at and thinking about my stuff and others’. I really like to do it, it’s not a chore. The business of providing context and support sometimes feels like a chore but wait, it IS a chore and it IS a business. I’m feeling my way towards a better attitude.

 How has your studio practiced evolved over the years?

The mechanics are similar today to when I began. Facility is unavoidable but I’m not thinking about craft and technique and what Top Secret medium Fairfield Porter used to achieve this or that viscosity. There are better ways to honor our heroes. Anyway, decision-making improves as my body of knowledge expands. You just keep going, it’s so simple. I’ve painted other painters’ paintings that I don’t have to paint again. I do want the work to last so I try to be a responsible builder. The evolution has mostly been attitudinal but if I pay too much attention to that stuff I die. A guy said to me you can’t drive the bus and read the map at the same time. I cruise around making rolling stops; for me that’s what has proven sustainable and the most fun. Fun is always underrated.

 Do you read often?

Yes and no. I have trouble starting and trouble finishing. I’ve stuck with Lydia Davis for the past year, however.

 What are your feelings on academia?  

I dislike academic art, which is not necessarily a product of academia. I see so much painting in a rush to arrange for meaning, to accommodate itself to norms rather than troubling them. Art is a vocation if you’re doing it right but self-seriousness just sucks up all the fun. There’s very little at stake. Art is the safest place to fuck up. I’m unlicensed– I didn’t go to art school; I earned a degree from Indiana University-Bloomington through the School of Continuing Studies which has been… discontinued. I’m a Bachelor of General Studies, one of the great salad bar degrees. It worked out fine, I took art history and comp lit courses and that stuff. There’s a nice museum at IU and a great fine arts library which was enormously important. I worked in the bookstore in the Fine Arts building, the Friends of Art bookstore. We sold bagels and sometimes we could take old bagels home. Taking old bagels home is close to art.
Ten years ago when I developed a sense of who the good younger painters were I worried that it would be a hindrance getting onto the field without a serious art school pedigree but I don’t worry about this now. I’ve heard there’s a trend away from blue-chip programs but I don’t believe it. In any case most of the artists I admire DID go to art school and many of them teach and they seem like happy people! I think teaching in some capacity is the way to go if you want to be really good.

Peter Shear earned his BA from Indiana University. His work has been featured in national and international exhibitions. He currently lives and works in Bloomington, Indiana 

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