Pete Wheeler is a New Zealand artist who has returned home after living and working in Berlin, Germany for the past 10 years. Wheeler lived in Dunedin during the late 1990s and early 2000s, graduating with MFA from the University Of Canterbury. He has held solo shows in New Zealand, Australia, America and Europe. He has multiple works in the James Wallace Collection, Zabludowicz Collection (London) and Martin Sosnoff Collection (New York) and was a finalist in the James Wallace Trust Awards in 2017.
Wheeler’s work pertains to themes of death, time and history – bringing in reoccurring symbols including skulls, fauna and figures from popular culture. In spite of these recurrent themes and symbols, his works defy a sense of classification. They are a product of his urban environment (Berlin as of recent), influenced by a grungy street aesthetic, often incorporating controversial imagery of political connotation or perhaps Bart Simpson flipping the bird.
As with any occupation, Pete finds that painting can become a part of the daily grind. He likes the idea of it not becoming linear, constantly testing the waters in order to retain spontaneity and excitement. Pete Wheeler brushes his big paintings with humour and intent. Art-wise there is not too much flounce – just the direct, the bold and the brave.
Back from a decade in Berlin, this is his first project for The Central, Wheeler is playfully exploring the idea of inspiration, that moment of creative spark behind every work, every new series. His suggestion is that despite the drive for something new which was the primary motivation behind the avant-garde, the generation of work always mixes the high and the low brow, the rarefied, the already existing and the everyday. Or in this case, it is the innovation of Marcel Duchamp’s presenting found objects as art, along with Homer Simpson’s classic “Ta Da” eureka moment.
So, Wheeler paints Duchamp’s profile and his Bicycle Wheel along with Homer and Bart. He conjures wheels for Wheels, as Pete is known to his friends. One goes up in flames. Things get gothic. But is Wheeler fatigued – seemingly never.