This week we talk to painter Andrew Salgado, about Bowie and his fear of the West-Side
Canadian born painter Andrew Salgado is widely regarded as one of the world’s leading figurative painters. Over the past decade he has developed a distinctive style; using abstract textured compositions in thick vivid oils his large scale portraits excite and emote.
Andrew has successfully sold-out 11 exhibitions internationally. His show earlier this year, at the Canadian High Commission in Trafalgar Square, was aptly named 'Ten'. At 34, Salgado was the youngest artist to have a solo exhibition in this space.
Flint sat down with Andrew to find out more about his process.
10 years of artistic practise, what motivates you?
Honestly I feel very fortunate to be working toward my passion, each day. That's quite a 'sound bite' response but it's true, despite the cliché. I also have changed from this method of thinking when I was younger where I felt inspiration needed to come from some divine fount. In reality, it's not like that, so as a practising artist I have to look to the little things. It's become a lot less autobiographical, and I find that in itself a sign of my maturation as a man and also as an artist.
For instance, my forthcoming body of work is called Dirty Linen and it literally pulls inspiration from the characteristics of the linen that the works are painted on. This is a far cry from someone who made his entire professional history from inspiration from my experience as a hate-crime victim (in 2008), and most recently did a show called 'The Snake' (Beers London, 2016) that was based on the Orlando massacre and touched on xenophobia and transphobia. I feel like I've done that. I don't want to be so aggressively thematically driven.
Now I'm like, 'sweet colour. Let's see where this takes me' haha. Maybe not so ambivalent. The meanings are there, they're just coded. My show this summer 'A Room With a View of the Ocean', (Lauba, Croatia, 2017) was based on a really horrific personal event... but nobody knows that. It's for me. It's internal. Now I'm a lot more codified. I think that proves for stronger work. I want to let the simple elements and raw materials speak for themselves.
How would you describe your relationship with your chosen medium?
It's perverse and passionate. And playful. Materials are everything. Without them I'm just a dude with a half-baked idea.
Why East London?
I moved to London almost a decade ago and have lived in East London for 6 years. I did a stint in Berlin in 2010 so maybe it reminds me of that. West London gives me the heeby-jeebies. I feel like over here we celebrate unpredictability and play. The people, the neighbourhoods, the attitudes, the art... West London is institutionalised. And you definitely feel the East/West divide. I get scared West of Marble Arch. haha. I'm being only as facetious as I am actually serious. I love the laissez-faire vibe here and I've made it my home. I also show with BEERS LONDON gallery (www.beerslondon.com) and they're in EC1, at the bottle-neck to East London. It's home.
As young designers we set out to develop a product and story that people would feel a connection to. Is this the case with you, or is your work introspective? Has it been circling around a particular theme; does your recent use of colour reflect this?
Can't it be both introspective and driven by / for external influences? I spoke earlier about the thematics, and yes, that's always there, and I think colour is, for me, the primary way to illustrate this. I was speaking with a friend yesterday who was showing me his black and white paintings, but I said to him, 'realistically, I'm a colourist' I can't hide that. I've learned to embrace my shortcomings and make them my strengths. As creatives, that's what we learn to do, isn't it?
I think I'm quite selfish, though. Unlike design or fashion, ultimately, my work is for me. I think it's the same with writers. We have to make work that reflects our true intention and idea, otherwise, we're punting a product. It's why I don't share my work while it's in progress. It might sound a bit touchy-feely artsy-fartsy, but I have to do the work that is important to me, otherwise I'm just making paintings to please people.
I no longer do commissions. Do I want to paint your cat? No. So there's an arrogance that accompanies that - I guess... but it's more about making a whole, true, perfect product. My colours now are so vibrant. There's a lot of patterning. It's funny because these works are part of a one-two punch for Cape Town (first the Cape Town Art Fair in Feb, then the gallery show at Christopher Moller Cape Town in March), and I'm following this really loud punchy body of work with what will (I hope) be a quiet, understated show. I've been building up to pull back.
So yes, there's always consideration of the viewer, quite thoroughly, but it has to be my true vision. I sound like I've completely contradicted myself. I supposed it's hard to explain.
It was necessary for us to be adaptive during the design process. Do you have a firm idea of the finished piece at the beginning of each project?
I have a vague idea, but I have to be flexible. I became a stronger artist when I stopped trying to strong-arm my 'idea' of a piece and actually just let the piece take me on a journey. That's where the true eureka moments come into play... When something unexpected happens that changes the entire trajectory of the work, the show, or my entire practice.
Is your approach chaotic or methodical?
Actually I've thought of this quite a bit because I think in my mind's eye I'm totally scatterbrained and chaotic. However I think when it comes down to working, people have called me quite zen, methodical, and calm. The inner forces are at a rave but the exterior facade has to execute things with care. I think I'm actually quite resolute in here.
Do you work on more than one painting at a time?
Yeah I like to start a whole show and then, sort of, back track. I like to plan things out. The work looks like such a mad panic, but it's actually all very considered and contemplative. I edit and change and re-approach a lot.
It was important to define our target audience from the outset. Do you have a specific audience in mind that you tailor each exhibition, or painting to?
Well 'where' I'm showing each body of work comes into consideration, sure. I'm a showman. I like to create a presentation that will surprise and inspire and bring a smile to someone's face. Yes, all these factors come into play.
Sound and Vision, 2016
Which contemporary artists or designers do you admire?
I just asked Daniel Lismore this morning if I could paint him. That's full blown art-meets-life-meets-art. I love the audacity of someone like Alexander McQueen, for instance. David Bowie. That type of whole - and holistic - approach really seduces me.
I'm always looking at artists, present and past. Lately it's been Rousseau, Matisse, Gauguin, and contemporary painters like Sanya Kantarovsky, Zachary Armstrong, Tal R, Kerry James Marshall, Laura Owens... a bunch of people you've never heard of. People always show me painters who do these big floating heads like I used to paint and I couldn't be less interested in that, to be totally honest, haha. I love the idea of growth and change and metamorphosis.
What other mediums are you hoping to incorporate into future work, should we expect something very different?
I still want to install a working clock into a painting. And I have an obsession with German fat lava (Scheurich) vases. I'm working on textiles now. Who knows. I don't like the label painter... that's just one thing and I have lots more to say.
Forthcoming solo exhibitions include Dirty Linen (& The Nihilist's Alphabet) with Christoher Moller Gallery for Cape Town Art Fair (Feb 2018), followed by Somewhere In Between at Christopher Moller Gallery, Cape Town (March 2018); Dill Pickle Chips, Angell Gallery, Toronto (October 2018); and finally a return to both NYC and London in 2019. Andrew is represented by BEERS LONDON gallery.