Andrew Salgado: The Misanthrope
“At a time when painting itself often seems to be a threatened, even despised, form of artistic activity, Andrew Salgado emerges as a dazzlingly skillful advocate for the medium he has chosen to embrace.” Edward Lucie-Smith, 2012
Text by Edward Lucie-Smith
Sometimes – not often nowadays – at a contemporary artwork, or a series of contemporary artworks, I get a shock. Very often indeed, I am not at all shocked by things that are deliberately intended to provoke the audience. A case in point would be the now half-forgotten giant portrait of the murderess Myra Hindley (Myra, Marcus Harvey, 1995), which was perhaps the chief ‘sensation’ of the Sensation! exhibition of 1997, held at the Royal Academy, which established the YBA (Younger British Artists) group in the public consciousness. The fact that the image, copied from a police ID photograph of no artistic merit in itself, had been made, not with a brush, but with a stamp moulded from a child’s hand, caused a huge stir in the press, and provoked demonstrations from relatives of the children murdered by Hindley and her partner in crime Ian Brady. Simply regarded as a painting, a work of art made by putting paint on a flat surface, the likeness of Hindley was completely inert. It had less, not more, emotional force that the photograph from which it originated.
Where did it – does it – differ from the two portraits of Jeffrey Dahmer included here, another notorious murderer, which provided the catalyst for Andrew Salgado’s exhibition The Misanthrope? What they have in common with the painting of Hindley is that they have necessarily been generated from photographs. Yet Dahmer was killed in 1994 by a fellow prison inmate; he has been dead for nearly two decades, and was never physically within the reach of the artist. What is different is the sheer freedom and individuality of the handling: it lies in the power of the paint itself to convey intertwined thought and emotion. If you want a practical demonstration of what I mean, go to the Wallace Collection, here in London, a look at one of the most celebrated masterpieces in the collection: Frans Hals’ Laughing Cavalier (1624). A very different subject, but in many ways, a very similar set of effects.
Hals belonged to a small group of major Baroque painters who were virtuosi in the use of paint, and in particular, virtuosi in creating the look of life and movement through often very loose handling of their material. Rembrandt, in his later work, belongs to the same category. So too does the mature Velazquez. That is the tradition to which the works shown here seem to belong.
Not surprisingly, however, things have moved on since the 17th century. The paintings are all heads, tightly cropped, not full length or half-length figures in the manner of Baroque portraiture. The focus is not only on the depiction of psychological states, but on the extreme rapidity with which the states can sometimes alter, like the shadows of clouds passing over a summer cornfield.
At a time when painting itself often seems to be a threatened, even despised, form of artistic activity, Andrew Salgado emerges as a dazzlingly skillful advocate for the medium he has chosen to embrace. These paintings tell us more than a video ever could about the characters whom they depict. A video narrative about the nature of misanthropy would never be even a quarter as informative. In addition, it is a narrative that we can study in our own time, at leisure. These are not paintings to be looked at only once. They do not operate within a fixed time frame. What they have to say will change from occasion to occasion, even when it is the same spectator involved.
Using a supposedly traditional medium, they are in fact contemporary in the best sense. We inhabit a society where feelings and perceptions are growing more fluid, rather than less. The paintings undoubtedly reflect that situation. However they go further, by reflecting it in a form where these changes can be held for a moment, and examined. They do not wriggle out of our grasp. Yet they always have something to add, something new to say to us.
Foreword by Kurt Beers
Director, Beers.Lambert Contemporary
The Misanthrope is painter Andrew Salgado’s second solo exhibition with Beers.Lambert Contemporary since 2008, and Salgado credits a quote by Lucien Freud as the exhibition’s starting point, in which the late Freud stated that “the painter's obsession with his subject is all that he needs to drive him to work.” Salgado attributes his impassioned relationship to personal and universal narratives as the continued source that informs his practice, interpreting this quote as the artist’s need to ascertain a sense of (unromantic) love for his subject. The concept behind the present exhibition arose and expanded while completing a work entitled A Question of Profound Regret, for Salgado’s previous solo-exhibition in Korea (June 2012). The piece features reverse ‘mirrored’ portraits of gay serial-killer Jeffrey Dahmer; Salgado maintains the connection he feels necessary between artist and subject became a source of contention while completing the aforementioned work...how might one empathize with such a reprehensible figure became a personal struggle that led to further questions that thus informed The Misanthrope.
What may reveal itself to be of particular interest is Salgado’s insistence on the importance of the title’s semantic particularities: Salgado is very aware of both the intensity and the pejorative nature of the title, particularly for an exclusively figurative exhibition. He insists that the titular misanthrope has failed, yet the question remains whether the misanthrope has faltered because of his continued and expectant distain for humankind, or has he faltered because he fails to succeed at what the title suggests…? While Salgado remains evasive about the true intentions of the work, he posits that the misanthrope’s ultimate failure would be to experience love. Still, the title asks one to consider larger personal and societal questions than what is immediately evident through the form and/or content of the work, and ultimately, it appears to be Salgado’s affinity for narrative that propels further inquiry into the work and the questions that may remain with the viewer. As such, it appears that of greatest importance is the suggestion of hope that lingers; Salgado seems uncompromised in highlighting the beauty (both in terms of technique and content) emanating from each painting.
Above all, one notice’s Salgado’s love for his medium and an evolving technique and what is quickly becoming his signature style. His practice is an exploratory process that transforms the figure and reveres the medium of oil paint. While the works are undeniably figurative, Salgado maintains himself as more of an abstract painter, avoiding and defying the conventions of the figurative painting, marked partly through his most defiant use of a palette-knife (often in favor of the brush) to-date, and a paint-texture that appears at times both buttery and topographic. In a recent interview with Yatzer magazine he is quoted as stating the following:
"The truth is, at my core I feel more like an abstract artist than a figurative artist; I avoid adhering too closely or exclusively to any term because I believe it whittles what I do to something one-dimensional, didactic, in the sense that I’ve always felt it too superficial to simply aim for likeness in representation. In this regard, it’s important for me to question the nature of the painted image, the figure, and also those concepts not-so-visibly evidenced such as masculinity, sexuality, and identity. I suppose that the way I go about drawing attention to this is by loosening the grip on accuracy of representation; I want the viewer to be very aware that they are looking at a reconstruction – a mark of paint might vaguely (or not so vaguely) represent an eye, or the tip of a nose, but it also exists purely as a mark of paint, nothing else and nothing more. It is this duality of forms that I believe allows me (and hopefully the viewer) to question the painted image. In the act of questioning that, I think the entire figurative form becomes questioned. For me, the fact that I don’t implicitly ‘buy in’ to the image on the canvas, and am concerned about its (de)construction, prevents the work from becoming too solipsistic, self-indulgent, or banal. I like to keep things uncertain: the form, the concept, the figure itself…this is the only way that my viewer is going to approach my work with an open mind and leave the work with their own conclusions."
Andrew Salgado: The Misanthrope exhibits at Beers.Lambert Contemporary (1 Baldwin Street, London EC1V9NU) from 11 October – 17 November, 2012. The exhibition preview is 10 October from 6-9pm. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org or call +44 (0)207 502 9078 or visit www.beerslambert.com
There will be an artist talk at the gallery on Thursday, 1 October from 7:30-9pm. Andrew Salgado will discuss concepts relating to The Misanthrope, as well as ideas important to his ethos and studio practice, but also toward the larger socio-political realm in which his works are produced .
Andrew Salgado (b. 1982, Regina, Canada) has exhibited in the United Kingdom, Germany, Scandinavia, Australia, Venezuela, Thailand, Korea, South Africa, Canada, and the United States. His bold, assertive, and generally large-scale figurative paintings have placed him as one-to-watch in both the UK’s and North America’s painting scenes. Solo exhibitions include In Order To Rebuild; Dosi Gallery, Busan, Korea (2012); The Misanthrope, Beers.Lambert Contemporary, London, (2012). Forthcoming solo exhibitions include London, a collection of works commissioned by the UK-retailer Harvey Nichols, London, UK (April-June, 2013); The Smallest Heart’s Desire, La Petite Mort Gallery, Ottawa, Canada (May 2013); and The Acquaintance, his first institution-exhibition at The Art Gallery of Regina, in his home-town of Regina, Canada (October 2013). Solo exhibitions in 2014 include Christopher Møller Art, Cape Town (January); One Art Space, New York City, NY (May); and Beers.Lambert Contemporary, London UK, (October).
Edward Lucie-‐Smith is an internationally known art critic and historian, who is also a published poet and a pracumpur to Rio de Janeiro and Kingston, Jamaica.
He has published more than a hundred books in all, chiefly but not exclusively about contemporary art. He is generally regarded as the most prolific and the most widely published writer on art. A number of his art books are used as standard texts throughout the world. Among the languages in which they have appeared are Chinese, Arabic and Persian.
He currently curates the Bermondsey Project Space in London, managed by Crisis, the charity for the single homeless. He has organised exhibitions in a number of galleries worldwide – in Greece, Germany, the United States, Italy and Estonia, and most recently in Klaipeda, Lithuania. He is the Chair of the international jury for Persbook, an annual competion for young Iranian artists held on Facebook, and has served on the juries of the Cairo, Alexandria and Sharjah Biennials.