A FIRESIDE CONVERSATION WITH CHRISTIAN STEARRY
We're starting this week off proper with a nice chat with artist and skateboarder Christian Stearry. You can see his work IRL on March 12th at the new Northern Contemporary gallery on Queen West here in Toronto
Can you introduce yourself and your work quickly?
I'm Christian Stearry and I'm a skateboarder and artist based out of Toronto. I work as a cook to pay my rent.
Obviously your work has been very much defined by your experiences as a skateboarder - do you think that skateboarding has shifted the way that you make your art as well (in terms of process)?
Skateboarding has definitely had a deep influence on me as an artist as well as the way I interact with my community. It supplied me with a subject matter that I won't become tired with. It's also provided me with a whole culture of imagery, music, performance and character. It was the first group I wanted to be a part of, and is still the only group I want to be a part of.
As far as my process I think it's only been effected in the sense that I'd rather be skating - it has been streamlined.
Skateboarding's proximity to graffiti and tattooing have definitely played a role in how my process has developed as well.
What is your favourite way to show your work?
It's weird, the internet, particularly Flickr, was my first format for showing work and that platform I think has had a powerful effect on how I make my work. I rarely make paintings that are too big to fit in a standard photo scanner. Also It's easier to get away with the white backgrounds on the internet. Also computer screen kind of works like a frame. I wouldn't say this is my favourite way to present work but it is the most effective.
Ideally I'd like to have my work framed, with a white matte and viewed in person. I do work with paint entirely, and there are textures that get lost through the computer screen.
Following that - do you think it lives best as a zine or as a painting on a wall?
I love zines as a way to share work, and I have been increasingly jaded by the unending, inconsequential flood of the internet. That being said zines are too Lo-Fi and inefficient cost wise to really properly share my work. I guess the better question would be Zines versus Tumblr, cause work is always better in real life.
Do you think your work is engaging with any specific periods from Art History? Or do you think that it’s more closely related to the history of commercial illustration (not that these are necessarily separate entities)?
I think commercial illustration was definitely what got me hooked, things like skate graphics, Spongebob Squarepants, Pokemon, DBZ- you know cartoons, comics and trading cards. They planted that seed when I was a kid. When I got a bit older and became "Counter-Cultural" I got more interested in a more "artist" like way of approaching work, but was still caught up in a thing that was presented to me by a group.
In the last 6 months to a year I've been going to the library or used bookstores and trying to broaden my art knowledge. I'm reading a book on American Realism now and I've also become interested in the works of Alex Katz.
I know that you’ve been focusing on perfecting your drawing of figures/anatomy - has this changed your work in any major way?
Hugely! It's changed the way I look at things, and changed the way I compose my images, it's changed my understanding of lines. I used to do cartoony things, particularly to avoid getting forms correct, but studying figures has strengthened my work for sure. I look at shape now rather than just line, and a better understanding of shape effects your understanding of light, and light is everything! I don't have any formal art training and I think it's important to try to push forward to avoid a rut.
I know that you’re good friends with a bunch of photographers - do you think that there’s a crossover between your work as a painter and the works of photographers like Dimitri Karakostas and Reilly Hodgson?
Their influence on me is massive but I'm not sure exactly how to talk about it! I think mostly the way they capture their own lives in a way that has a dual purpose of being auto-biographical, but also readable for people that aren't a part of their "In" crowd. I guess that candid, documentarian mindset has seeped into me.