INFLUENCED BY LEON GOLUB, PAUL MCCARTHY AND MIKE KELLEY, THE AESTHETICS OF PAINTER CLEON PETERSON TELLS ABOUT A HARD, TWISTED WORLD. A HARSH UNIVERSE THAT THE ARTIST HAS PARTLY EXPERIENCED HIMSELF DURING A CHALLENGING PHASE OF HIS LIFE. NO SYMBOLS, BUT A STRAIGHTFORWARD REPORT ON A BRUTAL, VIOLENT, REAL SOCIETY.
When did you realize that painting would be a part of your life?
I think I knew I was going to be an artist from the time I was really young maybe 11 or 12. I was sick as a kid with asthma and almost died many times. It was a way for me pass the time when i couldn’t go to school and when I had long boring stays in the hospital. I found art as a way to create meaning in my life. I didn’t know if I was going to be around long and art and was a way for me to have presence even if I were to die.
Your works speak of violence and abuse. What prompted you to report such reality through art?
I grew up in an environment like this so I related to the subject. I don’t really want to get into the details but I was around extremely destructive and chaotic people. I actually thought this was normal until I was 19 or 20 and by that time I’d moved into chaos of my own making around drugs and everything in that world.
What strikes the viewer is the use of strong colors and the absence of ethnic specifications. Why this chromatic and conceptual choice?
I just like powerful form and starkness. My goal is for the paintings to have an emotional and gut level presence. Painting, movies, books that have this quality always had the most impact on me and it’s what I enjoy in art.
What is your idea of humanity?
You mean are people innately good or bad? I think people are innately self interested and sometimes in seeking our interests we step on others toes. Whether that’s with small things like words or big things like bombs. The scary thing about the whole endeavor is that I don’t think many set out to do wrong everyone is just looking out for the good of their groups and there are unfortunate casualties on the road.
What you would never paint, and why?
I don’t paint happiness because for some reason It’s just not my thing.
How did the collaboration with Huf come up?
I skated as a kid and in the ‘90s rode a bit with Keith so were old friends.
What are your memories from the 2014 edition of Art Basel, where you worked with Shepard Fairey aka Obey?
I’ve been friends with Shepard since ’98 he’s a great guy. We worked together for years in the studio and I miss shooting the shit with him. Memories on painting the mural hot and shitty. Painting murals in the sun is always hot and shitty.
What is your biggest dream?
Hard to say. My life is going pretty good right now. I think I’ve done more than I ever thought i would. Best thing that could happen is for me to just keep being excited about making work and having the opportunity to continue on.
Photos courtesy of the artist