Untitled (12-43), 2012
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?
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?
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