"Plan B" acrylic on wood, 2011, by Paul Zacharias
You'd be mindful to pay attention to the works being created by Paul Zacharias.
His hugely creative and often surreal paintings are a cheeky-yet-profound marriage of paint and wood. This Winkler born artist can leave you both grinning at his dark humour and held in profound thought at the breadth of his subject matter.
He'd pretty much be an ideal addition to any dinner party.
His newest solo exhibit, REBELS, confronts the idea that images of rogue heroes and revolutionaries are merely being paraded around, cut from their historical context. (Sure you can buy a Che shirt, but could you actually imagine having to use an m-16 to fight for your freedom?)
SCENE bellied up to Paul to ask him this latest collection - and of course, canoes and wood.
What is the story behind the somewhat elaborate names of your pieces?
I have always wanted to be a writer. I have never been able to successfully use text in my work but still feel it is a waste to leave a painting as "Untitled". I am fine with the title being inside jokes or mysterious clues. The titles usually come in the end or even long after the pieces are finished.
The canoe features quite a bit in your work, what is it about that vessel of Canadiana that draws you to it?
I see the canoe as a soul, a courage, something halfway between the human and the wild. I've spent a lot of time in canoes. In this series the canoe painting is called "Plan B." It refers to a core belief that myself and other Canucks have that if things get too terrible, we can always, with a few simple tools, disappear into the Canadian wilderness. There is but a handful of countries in the world that could possibly have this psychological Plan B and it's important to remember that this is part of our identity. The canoe is also a nod to Tom Thomson, of the Group of Seven, who died on a canoe trip.
What is your draw to wood as a painting surface?
I discovered that I like to work on something that is in the middle of the grey scale. My brights can be brighter than the background and the darks darker. I love wood. I feel my paintings look great before I even start. Often the wood grain dictates how the painting will go, and many times I sand back the paint to reveal the grain below. The wood can be everything from psychedelic skies or fire or waves, to simply atmospheric information- something that I think is immediately familiar to everyone.
What do you think of the contemporary art scene in Winnipeg right now? Whose works are you liking these days?
There has been an explosion of interest in Winnipeg art from far away places like LA, New York, Paris for many years now, and oddly enough, it seems to be sustained. Apparently we are still being mined. Don't get me wrong, we deserve it. There are few things this city does right...art being one of them. I think it comes from how far away the major contemporary art centres are - Winnipeg artists train so hard that when they get to those places they blow everyone away.
In Winnipeg people are over the initial giddiness and are now pretty cozy with it, just getting back to work. That is what Ryan Carman has been doing at Golden City Fine Art for two years now, on no budget and no grants, yet still showing amazing work, in such a nonchalant way. There is a subculture of people here who realize that the best evenings are had at art shows rather than in bars. In terms of favorites there are so many great artists out there these days; I don't know where to begin. I think it is safe to say that my favorite Winnipeg artists are old art school friends of mine Jon Pylypchuk, Perry Thompson and Adrian Williams.
How does the element of storytelling play into your paintings?
I only feel that there has to be room for stories to develop between the viewer and the piece rather than me telling a story. That is why the titles are sometimes so vague. They need elbow room.
Where did the idea for your exhibit REBELS come from? (Is this a concept that you had been thinking about for a while?)
Imagine that the floor of this world we live in is made of glass with a layer of grime over it. This glass is extremely dirty, but if you stop to clean it you may find an entire, other world living underneath it. After some research and a lot of great literature I've come to the conclusion that to ignore the growing gap between the rich and the poor, the first and the third world, is sheer folly and criminally negligent. I think we are naively still living in our parent's world. As artists we should be able to see the future and do something about it. REBELS came from a yearning to become more socially conscious. I don't believe that making art about that yearning is fully fixing anything, and I think I make fun of myself in this exposition in those regards, but at least it is a start.
And on that note.. What can we expect from your upcoming exhibit?
Angela Davis said, "Radical simply means grasping things at the root." To me, that sounds like the words of a true artist. To understand the way the world works from deep in the ground. I wanted to paint those who are willing to fight, to be jailed, and even killed for what they believe in; in a heroic yet human light. Here even the misguided and violent movements get credit for making some form of a stand. In bringing myself to these places I hope the viewers feel drawn in with me, feel the sting of tear gas, and the call of the cause...