Andrew Salgado. Photo by David Sandison
For PULSE Miami Beach 2015, Beers London tapped contemporary painter Andrew Salgado to create a new body of work to fill their booth. Loosening up his style and allowing chance and intuition to enter what is normally a more controlled process, he has delivered a series of exuberant paintings, in which abstraction and representation clash and coalesce into psychologically charged images of male (and the occasional female) figures. The works mark an exciting moment for the young Canadian artist, which is evidenced by the fact that the entire booth sold out on the fair’s opening day.
While Salgado skillfully captures his subjects’ likenesses, he is more interested in conveying their psychological states and in experimenting with the material properties and formal possibilities of paint. Though his paintings are always centered on human figures—almost always male—and based off of photographs he takes of his various sitters, he does not consider them portraits and would not describe himself as a portraitist. He steers away from straight portraiture with a range of methods, including layering in references to the history of painting and to the iconic works of famous modern artists. He deliberately disrupts the faces and bodies of his figures with a riot of varied visual devices.
In his new series, Salgado sets his subjects into backgrounds filled with colorful patterns, drips, splatters, and smears of pigment, and collaged media ranging from paint skins to glitter. These markings often spill over onto faces and bodies, forming an obscuring, abstracting scrim. The artist also frequently places his subjects into borders or frames that serve to set them into the picture plane and further remove them from appearing naturalistic.
In Peace Signs (2015), for example, made with oil and pastel on canvas, a man gazes out pensively at viewers, his large head filling most of the space in the composition. He is set against a yellow and purple colored background filled with sketchily rendered smiley faces, X’s, circles, and triangles, which spill onto his face, neck, shoulders, and the hand he holds to his chest. Multicolored ribbons fall from his head, down his face, and onto his shoulders, looking oddly festive next to his otherwise serious countenance and entangling him more thoroughly into the painting itself.