Paul Chatem is well known for his colorful, illustrative “gear” paintings in which the viewer can actually take hold of a piece of art and “turn” it into something else entirely.  His unique approach attempts to cause a physical interaction between the work and gallery goer within the exhibition.

For his most recent show “Another Man’s Hero” Chatem slowly moves away from acrylic based works, and back into oils – a switch which truly adds another level of color brilliance into his work.  Mr. Chatem has always had an illustrative hand, but it is within his paintings entitled “I Owe You One Pig, By The Way, Your Daughter’s Pregnant” and the complimentary workI Owe You One Daughter, By The Way, Your Pig’s Pregnant” in which we are seeing another level to Chatem’s work altogether.  Symbology takes center stage in “Another Man’s Hero”, and it is by far the best body of work from Chatem thusfar.

We sat down with the artist recently to ask him about his art, past, and future…

(Warholian’s MC)  Can you tell us a little about your particular aesthetic, and the subject matter you focus on in this particular body of work?

(Artist Paul Chatem) My aesthetic is a mixture of rusty tin cans, abandoned buildings, greasy machinery and classic cartoon illustration. The subject matter in the new show is a mixture of characters that ride the fine line between right and wrong. The main idea for the show was to explore the idea of one persons perspective of themselves versus how others see them. One man’s hero is another man’s villain. 

(Warholian’s MC)  How did you first decide you wanted to become and artist?  Your background?  What formal or informal training have you received?

(Artist Paul Chatem)  I always sketched as a kid. Mostly copying cartoon characters from the newspaper and comic books. As an early teen, a friend of mine showed me  E.C. comics, underground comics of the 60’s, and contemporary alternative comic artists such as Daniel Clowes and Jim Woodring. This really sparked my imagination and broadened my view of the world. After seeing the Helter Skelter show in 1992 at the MOCA in Los Angeles, which included Robert Williams and Raymond Pettibon, it was all over, my mind was corrupted and I had no choice but to make art.

(Warholian’s MC)  How has your process and subject matter evolved over time?  

(Artist Paul Chatem)  My process is always changing. I started out with the focus on ink drawings, learned how to paint in oils in art school and was taught faux finish techniques and carpentry in the movie business. Now I jump around mixing everything I’ve learned over the years to get the desired effect I’m looking for on that particular day.

(Warholian’s MC)  Who/what are some of your major influences?

(Artist Paul Chatem)   Most of my influences are alternative comic book guys, as well as early animation, but then there’s the guys that stick out like soar thumbs in my creative brain like Ed Keinholz and Ben Shawn. Music drives a lot of what I do, most of the time it’s Tom Waits, Charley Patton, Dock Boggs, Johnny Cash, The Clash and a whole lot of the Cramps rattling around in my ear.

(Warholian’s MC)  What’s next for you?  Any exciting projects or opportunities?  

(Artist Paul Chatem)  I’ve got a show coming up this summer in Germany at the Feinkunst Krueger Gallery, then in 2014 I’ll be in Italy at the Dorothy Circus Gallery. Other than that I’ll just be grinding away as always doing the best I can do with the time, money and energy I have to produce the work that I want.

Another Man’s Hero runs from April 14th – May 5th 2012 at White Walls gallery in the Tenderloin District of San Francisco.

– interview and photos by Michael Cuffe of Warholian

For more on the show, and available works visit:

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