the north face black jacket artist Cleon Peterson brings monumental mural to Old Strathcona
Without any official warning or fanfare, international painter Cleon Peterson has dropped a gigantic, untitled mural onto a 24 metre long, two storey brick wall in Old Strathcona, across from the Farmers Market.
The striking, black and white mural towers on the north face of El Cortez/Have Mercy, 8230 Gateway Blvd. The graphic imagery reflects Peterson ongoing themes of human brutality and violence, power and submission, here depicting gigantic figures mounted and on foot, seen close up in a bloody sword battle. He also does illustrations for the New York Times.
In the last three years, he moved into large scale murals and, lately, sculpture of all scales.
Peterson work on the side of El Cortez was paid for privately. El Cortez/Have Mercy owner and local filmmaker Michael Maxxis was thrilled to sponsor the Common Ground Arts Society who officially invited Peterson to Edmonton, together making the creation of the mural possible
Assisted with painting by volunteers from Found Festival which closed Sunday night, Peterson spoke exclusively to Postmedia about the mural.
Q How did you jump into the large scale work?
A I didn have any ambition to paint murals. named RETNA, and he asked me to paint the outside of his building. That was the first time. People categorize people in terms of, you a street artist, but I just think of myself as a painter. I like the idea of scale, of painting that communicates directly to people who wouldn ordinarily go to an art gallery. I love the idea of making stuff that confrontational, outside. From there, a lot of people started asking me to paint walls.
Q Why do you like scale, because it monumental?
A When I was a kid I go to the museum and be impressed by, say, a giant Basquiat painting that would encompass the whole room. When you enveloped by an image, there nothing like that. It just takes over.
Detail of Cleon Peterson’s mural on the north wall of El Cortez / Have Mercy, 8230 Gateway Blvd.
Q To me art is the least animal thing we can do.
A Yeah, and sometimes I really jealous of art forms like film,
music, because there so much more of a connection, because they playing with time, rhythm, sound and you a part of what going on. Scale is a way for me to get there.
Q There not a lot of rock star cartoonists, with stadiums full of screaming fans.
A (Laughs) I love cartooning it was one of the first things I was into. They literally used to call me the Little Jim Davis because I used to draw Garfield comics.
Q Get out! That exactly what I came out of, too let talk about Garfield!
A (Laughs) It was just simple enough for me to latch on to. There was a huge Garfield craze, remember that? Those little books were everywhere. The funny thing about Garfield is, it not very funny. How did it even become a phenomenon?
Q Playboy artist B. Kliban had given Jim Davis a bunch of art supplies, and Davis just noticed there were no daily comic strips about cats it was all Snoopy and Marmaduke. So it just got mega syndicated all over the world, pure niche marketing. He stopped drawing them years ago. This is perhaps your dream?
A That awesome. Anyway, from there I got into underground comics, Dan Clowes, Charles Burns. I started illustrating skateboards in the Why I like cartooning is it a really good format to be political.
Q Cartoons get a lot of heat, as can public art. Can you talk about the difference between depiction and endorsement? You creating scenes of violence Because of advertising and the world today, I feel any image that put out there, people see the art not in a critical way, but assume the artist is trying to sell you an idea. It can be a critique or something to make you look within yourself and question your beliefs. They think it advocating whatever the first read is. If you making work that is dynamic, difficult, you want to play with that first read. It a good position for me for someone to look at this and question, is this pro violence? And then have to break it down. But I not actively trying to convince people to change. I don want to be preachy. People think I pro violence, but I just painting the world as it is I see it today.
Q When I first saw your work I thought it was satire of ancient patriotic Greek pottery do you think the world ever changes?
A No. And I connect it to history intentionally. Sometimes I put sculptures in my work to communicate that this is something that been going on throughout time.
A figure inCleon Peterson’s mural on the north wall of El Cortez Have Mercy, 8230 Gateway Blvd.
Q This mural is more zoomed in than usual, focusing in closely on parts of people and horses instead of a wider battlefield.
A One of the issues with painting this wall was that it was brick, so details are harder. But I learned it communicates more directly when it simpler you can read this one from far away. It actually a benefit.
Q Your characters are straight black or white,
kind of a chess thing going. Are you concerned people might assume it about race?