Paul Chatem

Experiencing Paul Chatem’s work is like picking dried dirt and blood out of your fingernails with the tip of a rusty knife – methodically hypnotizing, uncomfortably familiar and an exhale away from dangerously deranged.


Better Start Gettin Square

His illustrative style is reminiscent of 1940s era advertisements gone terribly wrong and his clever symbolism cuts to the quick with unabashed brutality and exploitation. It seems his raw themes are tweezed directly from societies underbelly, revealing a myriad of ugly demons who are all too easy to recognize.


Makin Mud Outta Clear Water


Left Out in the Gold


Runnin This Red Light

His damning and morbidly honest themes coupled with his exquisitely crafted style is enough to solidify his place in today’s art scene as an unforgettable powerhouse. But that is not all he has done to suck a few eyeballs out of their sockets – in the last few years, many of his works have become interactive, multi-geared, movable paintings that are undeniably mesmerizing.

Below is a link to view a well-crafted video that Colin M Day created for the Shooting Gallery blog.


Chatem standing next to “The Side Stepper Really Steps in It”


I visited the show with artist Scott Wilson. He is operating the HUGE painting “Anatomy of Atavism” (In the background is a ROA wall painting from his solo show at the White Walls Gallery next door.)

Chatem’s collective body of work spins tales of cruelty, lust and human suffering. Watching each piece turn over on itself (through the motion of the gears), provides an unapologetically biting commentary of the never ending foibles of man.


The Doctor Knows Where the Bones Float

His current show “Island of the Colorblind” is at Shooting Gallery in San Francisco.


Shooting Gallery
839 Larkin Strreet
San Francisco, CA 94109
415.931.8035


“Island of the Colorblind” at Shooting Gallery

Shooting Gallery has this to say about the show:

In Chatem’s Island of the Colorblind, tone-deaf musicians entertain colorblind painters, tongue-less chefs feed stomach-less eaters, side-steppers lead forward thinkers, and empty bottles satisfy thirst-less drinkers. Isolated by a tumultuous environment, this cast of characters is united by a common interest to survive and thrive despite their differences. He has constructed an entire world of contradiction and wonder, using wood and paint.


The Shell Game

The show had a great write up by Josh @ Creep Machine. He had this to say:

“…With these new kinetic works the viewer is surely to stick around longer and be drawn in not only with the application of paint, the beautiful line-work the characters have, or the splattered, aged, and rusty elements, but also with the fact that this painting moves! …
… if I haven’t raved enough about these works, do yourself a favor and get to this show. Its not often you get to see a show this cohesive, exciting, and interactive.”


Tits Up In No Time


He Don’t Bow to Bad Water

Paul was kind enough to answer the five questions I ask everyone.

Chatem Notes

What artists or creative person has influenced you?
Max Fleischer cartoons, E.C. Segar’s Popeye comic strip, and Daniel Clowes’ Comic book Eightball probably had the biggest influence on me when I was starting out.

Not including other artists or art, what inspires you?
Music and stories from the Depression era, especially stories about overcoming or just dealing with hardship. I like to read books about off beat characters in American History; Dust Bowl survivors, Medicine show men, hobos, harlots, sideshow performers.

What is the part of your process you enjoy the most?
I like the early stages of constructing and figuring out a piece as well as that last day of painting when everything is clicking and falling into place.

… the least?
The thing I like least about my process would probably be all sanding and finish work I have to do to make the gears work.

If you were NOT an artist, what would you be doing?
I’d be swinging a hammer on a construction site. Good old honest hard work.

Another interesting tidbit:
Chatem is actually color blind and sees limited reds and greens. He speculates this might be the reason he tends to use more yellows and browns than other colors. For the series of paintings for “Island of the Colorblind” he used
Ishihara Tests. As he painted them, he began with the numbers and then filled the colors around them until he could no longer see the original script.

Chatem is a prolific artist who has had many solo shows – all with specific themes, such as “Death of Bighead” at C.A.V.E. Gallery in 2010



Hook or by Hook Crooked Hook


Hook or by Hook Crooked Hook (detail)


Lock Off Knock Block Off


Ain’t on the Level

“River Rock Bones “ at Dialect Gallery in 2010 …


Liberty Lost Her Torch


Time s Up

“Until the Whistle Blows” at ShootingGallery in 2009…


Rusty and Ruined


Gots to Grease the Wheel


They Eat Up Your Time


Until the Rooster Moans

and “Trainwreck” at CoproGallery in 2007.

He was also a part of the highly acclaimed tribute to David Lynch – “In the Trees – Twin Peaks 20th Anniversary Art Exhibition”


A Damn Good Cup of Coffee

Chatem has a wide range of fantastic editorial coverage by luminaries such as Hi-Fructose, Who Killed the Music, Fecal Face dot com, and Juxtapoz.

You may view more work at Paul Chatem’s website and also purchase non-editioned, unsigned Giclées at Society6 and Art Whino.

Thank you for your time Paul!