Interview with Pete Wheeler
for Poggiali e Forconi
When we met in Florence you told me that you had to start to work on your paintings, but also that you already had two ideas about the titles of the exhibition. This aspect has struck me very much because it does mean that you think of your painting as a narration of images linked among themselves, even if your paintings are always autonomous presences. Is it so? In which scene, which dream, which context do these titles you thought evoke or should show us how understand in the best way the single painting?
Well yeah the titles, for some reason I always use a title as an umbrella and a summing up for the exhibition so there is some entry point to the work, but its not an overly direct interpretation of the works. I always view my paintings as a continuous narrative and don’t see each painting as a finished work on its on.
Whom this title refers to? Who is the…?
smaller part of a greater whole, its a pluralism you know ;) 1st person
Instead, could you tell me about the subjects? What are they? Where these images of young people floating in the black of the canvas who apparently tear it up come from? And which is the source, instead, of the old man wearing the beard which seems to dissolve in the aurora light or to rise from it?
A sense of youthfulness in the work, symbolically youthful subject, has an affinity to youth. Acts of Rebellion or the idea of rebellion, rebellion is multi layered. With Maturity and old age death is that little bit closer, understanding of life. Prophet charachater sees things as they are or how the ought to be.
I guess I am on the cusp of some kind of maturity but realizing that youthfulness is not only about age but it can be something you carry through your whole life
The overall idea of this work is a landscape of the present and the future all at the same time, referring back to the title its a constant state of decay, as humans we do a pretty good job of tearing everything down. Then rebuilding only to tear it all down again.
In your previous exhibitions, once you drew your inspiration from the images of animals, above all birds, while on another occasion you have been inspired by human subjects linked to the culture of comic-strip and grunge music. Furthermore, in one of your previous cycle of works, the images were those ones drawn on from newspapers, in fact the images of young people in riots were associated on the canvas to slogans and written texts. In this case, which is the thank from which you will draw the images for your new paintings? Do they share the same feeling, or the same subject, or something else? Compared to all your previous works, could we talk about independent and autonomous cycles?
I have a pre disposition to curtain images, its like music, someone likes this kind of music and one likes another, its just taste you don’t need know why, but you can see influences. I draw from images and some times written text that has a sense of timelessness about it. Even though it appears to be set in a curtain time and space, I’d like no matter whatever generation you put it in, it should stand out.
Always referring to that kind of work, it has struck me a lot the title of an exhibition, “Death time and the shade of history”, where there were paintings representing images drawn on from the world of communication (relationship text/picture). I would like you to tell me more about this cycle. Starting from these works, which is now your idea of history? Has it changed with these last works?
Its like putting a jigsaw puzzle together giving some kind of foundation to my evolution as an artist
The early works were very environment based, the art history of NZ where text and image had played a strong role in the cultural identity. Now the environment has become subconscious rather than overly conscious, being here in the middle of europe and the history of the 20th century all around you
I grew up in place where you could only see art history in books, so everything was a reproduction, so that transpired into why the photograph became such a valuable source and image tool.
The newer works are now coming from my own photos, experiences and imagination along side the reworking of some historical images and paintings.
About the shade, for you it isn’t just a metaphysical stuff, but also a material one. In fact, your characters come out from a black background and the landscape and context are almost denied by such flatness and darkness. What is for you this black surface which features your last production?
The blackness acts like a vail, and a separation. Form comes out of nothingness! take 2nd verse of the first chapter of Genesis
for example there was nothing and then there was form, night and day, the difference between the unknown and the known.
Blackness is also really forgiving, as a pigment, take a black and white photograph for example you look so much better, it hides blemishes thats why we like it so much,
Your figurative painting is characterized by an execution speed which creates also some dripping on the canvas. Is this manner, this brutalization of the image, a highlighting of the distance from which you get inspired?
How should you define your painting style?
constant struggle between abstraction and figurative, defined and undefined, a play between pigment, surface and the image. Its a process of learning ones chops!(craft)
Being aware to let the paint be paint its got its own characteristics, not always being in control of everything.
I am asking you this because many paintings of some years ago, as “Achtung”, 2004, “to draw is to be human”, 2007, or “ICBM”, 2004, were obviously linked to specific news items and events of social rebellion. How do you consider this new cycle of works right now?
First of all I grew up in NZ, Small isolated island nation.
because of that, being a young artist trying to find your way, all you can do is look outward
NZ is a young country, no land boarders and isolated there is not a whole lot to draw on, but your young and keen to make a statement, you want to put your head out there.
Earlier work was often was more past and present.
Now the work is becoming more dream like or futuristic / prophetic, looking forward, a view behind the curtain!
The older you get you become more comfortable with your self, less easily swayed, happy to let my works be as they are. My work now is not so much about time and space.
A fundamental element of your paintings is their size, they always are very big, thus they become also a presence, not only a representation, autonomous images compared to the model they refer to (the eagle, the guy throwing a stone, the skull, the rider). Could you tell me more about your exasperated need to widen details of reality?
Reality is very questionable for starters, big narrative equals big paintings...
it goes back to the last question about style, the works are large so there is a lot of physical movement and motion to create them, and this sense of motion seems to last in the finished work, the application of the paint to the surface is always there.
Another aspect that has struck me a lot is that you insisted in saying you are a painter, and that you realize pictorial works. Why this defense?
Im not defensive but painting is the only thing Im good at
I think about the lightening installation of the broken flash. Is it a work that makes me really curious, I would like to know how it is born. How does it relate with your paintings? For you, is it a sign or a symbol?
Originally it started out as something totally different, first off it was going to be a skull rainbow that would refract light through it, but my high school since knowledge was not up to standard so as one door closed another opened hence the lightning bolt shape. It was made for a specific show here in Berlin but has ended up in storage for now But Im sure it will have its day in the right time and place.
In fact, with your paintings, sculptures and presences, do you aim to create a new atmosphere? Or do you want to give voice to these objects and symbols so that they can reveal their atmosphere, memory and identity?
Actually if they are shown this exhibition will be the first time I present any sculptures to the public, so up until this point I have been purely a painter, and now Im beginning to play with the 3d form and its effect on the atmosphere of the exhibition. I've often had 3d ideas but never the capability to realize them, now I have this capability (with the help of Frankie) so why not.
At the end of the day what is my goal ... to make something good?, communicate ?
hopefully some one out there will also find it good and take something away with them!
14) I ask you this question because these last paintings reveal more and more that your art seeks the balance point between abstraction and figuration, past and future… you put yourself on the threshold… Is it so? Could you tell me more about it? What is this threshold?
I don't consider my self on the threshold, you have implied this with your question, but I am interested in a narrative that considers the relationship between our reality and the metaphisical.
What is the end ? is it decay and ruin or is it something everlasting and timeless ?