1xRUN Thru Interview
Siamese Witches by Chet Zar
1xRUN: Tell us a bit about this piece, was it part of a solo or group show you had?
Chet Zar: Yeah, it was a part of a solo show called Left Hand Path at Copro Gallery in 2011. Originally it was a thumbnail sketch I had that was sitting around for a couple years. I just thought the design and concept was really cool.
1xRUN: Was there a theme going through that show that this piece highlighted?
Chet Zar: Here’s the truth about that show. I was down to the wire and needed to paint the show. I had this one painting called Mourner 2 which was a really popular image I did years ago in Photoshop. I was doing digital stuff before I started painting in oils, but the design was really good of this gothic looking woman with an umbrella which was called Mourner. I always liked that image, but I didn’t think I painted it as well as I should have so I wanted to redo it as an oil painting. That was kind of the center piece of the show and I sort of based the whole show off of the color palette that I developed for that one painting. It was basically these really warm orange-y back lit images. So they all kind of had that theme and that was pretty much how that show came about.
1xRUN: You mentioned that you had a sketch that went with that piece and that’s how you jumped off on it. Tell us about that.
Chet Zar: Yeah, it was a thumbnail sketch. What I usually say about my work, is that unless it’s something specific and I really have a concept behind it, it usually comes from somewhere in my subconscious and it’s more like my job to stay out of my own way. Stay out of my intuition’s way, and let it guide me while I create the work. Sort of in the same way like when you were a kid. When I was a kid, my friends and I used to draw, and we didn’t think about what kind of statement we were trying to make, or what we were trying to say with it. We just did it for the joy of it. That’s kind of how I paint. It’s all about getting back to that place when creating art was the most pure, like the way children do. Kids don’t think about what they’re doing, they don’t worry about if it’s gonna sell, they don’t worry about if it has a message. They just do it because they want to do it and they love to do it because it’s fun. So that’s what I usually say about my work in general unless it has a specific meaning.
1xRUN: Tell us how the execution came about.
Chet Zar: It was one that actually came together really quickly. Sometimes paintings are a real bitch and take forever. Other times they just feel kind of effortless and this one of those effortless paintings which, in turn are the most fun.
1xRUN: What is different or unique about this piece compared to some of your other work?
Chet Zar: Well, let’s see. I don’t think I’ve painted to many witches. It’s probably one of the most Halloween like paintings I’ve ever done. I think I’ve done maybe a couple two or three witch paintings, but it’s definitely one that’s the most in the Halloween spirit. It’s kind of a dark surrealist take on Halloween in a way i guess. It’s got the two-headed witch which is unusual.
1xRUN: Why should people buy this print?
Chet Zar: Well, it’s a really underrated image. Certain images of mine are super popular and for whatever reason this wasn’t one that got the attention I thought it deserved. Don’t get me wrong, people liked it. Just not as much as I thought they would. It’s one of my favorite designs, I love that painting. I kind of wish I didn’t sell it. I just like the simplicity and the shape and the real kind of glow it has. I think it’s sort of a hidden gem as far as my stuff goes.
1xRUN: Describe this print in one gut reaction word.
Chet Zar: Halloween.1xRUN: When did you first started creating art, how did you get started?
Chet Zar: I’ve always been doing it. My parents were super supportive. It was just my favorite thing to do since I was a kid. When I was a teenager I got into make up effects because I was really into horror movies and how they made monsters. I was always into monsters.
After doing that for about ten or fifteen years I started getting really burnt out on all the creative compromises of the film industry. I wanted to just to do my own work and I eventually left the film industry to pursue my own fine artwork and started painting.
Now some of my collectors are Guillermo del Toro who directed Hellboy and Pan’s Labyrinth. I’ve done creature designs for the Hellboy films. I did a little bit on the Pacific Rim film and worked on Mama a little bit which is a film Guillermo produced. Another collector I have is Adam Jones, the guitarist from Tool. I worked on the Tool videos doing make up effects and helping with the puppets that they have in their videos. Morgan Spurlock is a collector of mine who was the director of Super Size Me. Also, Jonathan Davis, the lead singer of Korn has a painting of mine.
1xRUN: What artists inspired you early on?
Chet Zar: I think probably my first big influence was M.C. Escher when I was a little kid and Hieronymus Bosch the guy who did The Garden of Earthly Delights. As a young teenager I was really into Frank Frazetta and then I got into H.R. Giger. As an adult I would have to say my biggest influence is Beksinski.
1xRUN: Do you listen to music while you work and if so what music influences you?
Chet Zar: It’s kind of a wide range of influences. People think that I’m a big metal head because I have long hair and a beard, but I’m actually not a huge metal guy. I mean I like Tool, Mastodon and you know a lot of old metal bands like AC/DC and stuff like that, but I’ve been really more into punk music from the 80’s. I’m a huge DEVO fan, I like The Beatles and Led Zepplin. I’m kind of all over the place. I don’t know that any of my art really relates to any of that other than the fact that the music that I like is enough to make me create. It’s not that it really influences me specifically. When I hear something good it definitely makes me feel creative.
1xRUN: What is your studio environment like?
Chet Zar: I was listening to music a lot for the first few years, but I kind of put a T.V. next to my easel and I’ve been watching documentaries for the last few years. I just like to be able to kind of tune out and just get in the moment of the painting. It might come from being a latchkey kid growing up and watching T.V. a lot. Basically I like watching horror movies and having documentaries on in the background while I paint. I like to watch horror movies because they kind of influence me in a way with my artwork. Horror movies are generally shitty and not really taken seriously and most of them are exploitation, crappy movies, but there’s something about them I like. I sort of take the influence of horror movies and turn into something that I can elevate into a realm of respectability just by painting it technically well and re-conceptualizing it in a way that’s more mysterious and surreal rather than some dumb horror movie that doesn’t have any kind of mystery or make you wonder about the meaning of life.
1xRUN: Can you touch on the idea you mentioned earlier of creating these worlds within your paintings for each of your characters to live in?
Chet Zar: I’ve always been into this kind of fantasy world. The idea of other realms and dimensions. These kind of dream states and other unusual realms of existence. I guess that comes from watching horror movies and reading comic books when I was a kid. For me it’s all about getting back to this place like when I was a kid. It’s sort of like you’re not fucked up yet when you’re a kid. It’s like you’re still sort of pure and it’s a pretense to self consciousness. You just do it and are in the moment which is how it should be as adults, but you just kind of grow up and lose that innocence. So painting is a way for me to get back into that state of mind. I spent a lot of time as a kid just dreaming up other worlds and thinking about them. Kind of escaping into fantasy worlds which is basically what I do now with the art.
1RUN: Tell us a bit about your most recent show Ego Death.
Chet Zar: It’s basically more of an art event which I funded through Kickstarter. The concept of Ego Death is basically a mystical experience you have through meditation or psychedelic drugs like mushrooms or L.S.D or even extreme states of distress that can bring it on where you realize that the idea of the ego is an illusion. That the idea of you own personal identity is something that is not really real. Coming to understand that the ego creates this sense of separateness. It’s like I am me and you are you and we’re separate. I believe in the idea that when you have an ego death experience you realize that the idea of being separate is an illusion and actually everything in this reality is the same thing and that we are all connected. So I thought that would be a good idea for a show and I basically painted all these pieces sort of about spiritual enlightenment by using these monsters and all this dark imagery, but to do it in a way that was unusual and kind of the opposite of what you would think about when it comes to enlightenment or spirituality. I painted some of them as just pure, sort of horrible looking monsters which are kind of like representations of the ego, the ugly faces of the ego. Then some of the other paintings were more spiritual, but still using dark imagery. The concept for the show was basically to have it be a funeral for the ego and humanity in a way.
1xRUN: Anything else you want to touch on that we might have missed?
Chet Zar: The only other thing big thing that I got going on right now is this documentary that this guy is doing about me called I Like To Paint Monsters which is coming out next year.