Still life painter, Eric Wert, answers questions about his art as eloquently, vibrantly and with the same precision as he does when making it. His paintings are without a doubt, impressive to say the least. He chooses subject matters that require an intense engrossment with attention to detail and color. His compositions are unusual in a familiar way; things you’ve seen painted before, but from an incredibly uncommon perspective. Wert contributes his ardent and continual fascination with the ornate and intricate to his childhood. He grew up as an only child in a rural region so much of his time was spent wandering around, investigating and observing all the things nature has to offer. Wert states; “I suppose part of my work is an attempt to return to that feeling of fascination without the illusion of understanding that can be experienced when you see something for the first time.”
CULTURE was delighted to sit down with Wert and load us full of interesting and useful facts as well as giving us a closer look into his heterogeneous paintings.
How long have you been painting and how have you seen your personal style develop throughout the years?
I’ve been painting or drawing full time for 22 years. My original training was as a scientific illustrator, so my earlier work was more factual and impersonal. Over the years, the work has become more lurid and lush, with more sensitivity toward representing the suggestive qualities of my subjects. Color is not something that comes naturally, so I have worked hard over the years to develop my skills using color as an emotive and formal device.
Many of your recent paintings incorporate reflections as well as nods to the Fibonacci sequence found in nature. What attracts you to these things?
I am drawn to complex natural rhythms and patterns, and especially enjoy the challenges involved in representing them. I find that intense patterns and complex structures invite the viewer to become absorbed in the painting.
“I have seen the therapeutic effects first hand and it is obviously beneficial . . . Sending people to prison for something so innocuous is insane.”
What are your thoughts on the legalization of cannabis? Do you see it as something beneficial?
I have seen the therapeutic effects first hand and it is obviously beneficial. It’s totally legal where I live, here in Portland, and seriously, it’s not a big deal. All the people who used it before can do it more safely; anyone who didn’t use it doesn’t have to start. Sending people to prison for something so innocuous is insane.
Can you tell us a few things you find inspirational? Do you have any rituals while painting? Any obsessions with things pertaining to your work or otherwise?
On Saturdays, I volunteer at a nearby National Wildlife Refuge. We restore and maintain the native wildlife habitat that has been damaged by agriculture and urban encroachment. It’s a slow, and possibly futile gesture, but the optimism and genuine love of the region expressed by people who probably have little else in common is inspiring to say the least. There are refuges all over the U.S., and they all need volunteers: www.fws.gov/refuges/. Matter of fact, forget about me . . . if you want to read something inspiring, read the mission statement for the National Wildlife Refuge System.
Painting itself is pretty ritualistic, and moves forward in slow, carefully determined steps. I take a short break between projects to clean up my house, cut my hair and say hi to my friends, but when the paintings get going I adhere to a rigid daily schedule. The whole thing is an obsession. That glowing leaf, or water drop, or orange peel fills my thoughts for the days or weeks it’s being painted. I wouldn’t have it any other way—it’s a genuine luxury to be able to take the time to truly look closely at my subjects. Of course, that intense observation only scratches the surface of the amazing layers of complexity that exist in any subject.
Do you have any projects you’re currently working on that you’d like to talk about? Any exhibitions coming up?
My most recent solo show at William Baczek Fine Arts in Northampton, MA came down December 12, and I am currently making work to send to Gallery Henoch in New York. Speaking of marijuana—I would love to do some very serious and intense paintings of beautiful ornate plants. I honestly don’t know where to go to see them, so if any of your readers have suggestions of where to go to photograph them in person in Oregon or Washington, I’d be much obliged.