Andrew Salgado’s Works of Masculine Beauty
Andrew Salgado's body of paintings is the work of a fascinating artist - images both compelling and at times a bit unnerving due to the intensity. They are not portraits, they are gripping, painterly stories culled from the experiences of each subject and the man who paints them.
Here's more from the artist himself:
Tell me a little about your background. When did you decide to become a painter and where did you study?
I've always been interested in art. Since I was a little kid, it was really all that I ever saw myself doing. Now I really can't visualize myself inhabiting any other role. I often say that being an artist is the only thing that actually defines who I am as a human being.
You often hear people saying that being gay doesn't define them, and in fact I feel strongly that it's like the inverse of that: I'm an artist first... everything I do is informed by art and my relationship to it.
More specifically, I'm a 31 year old Canadian based in London, where I've lived for over six years and have made my home. I'm an MA graduate from the Chelsea College of Art who decided to quit all the other 'daylight' jobs at about 25 years old. It was a scary, cathartic decision that was perhaps the most important decision I've ever had to make and I've never looked back.
Who would you say are/were your biggest influences?
On a greater level I cull inspiration from a lot of different sources. A lot of people have been hugely influential in my life and continue to provide sources of inspiration. The more obvious examples are my partner, my parents, close friends. My partner and I have been through quite a bit together, which I realize is a cliché of sorts, but after seven years we have lived in three countries, traveled together to over 30, growing personally and professionally. We experienced a year of being totally broke and even survived the victimization of a hate crime assault in 2008, which became a motivating factor for my work.
My greatest single inspiration (in terms of art and also ideology) is Francis Bacon. Wildly lauded as the greatest painter of the second half of the 20th century (after Picasso, who is considered the greatest painter
of the first half... both apt accreditations). What I admire is his "no bones about it" accounts of his art.
Listening to old interviews in which he talks about his art is so refreshing...such candor, such whittled-down honesty. There is no artsy-fartsy bullshit, just a frank, often very self-aware, but ultimately boiled down perspective on art and life. I admire the fact that he knew he had power but spoke with such elegance about himself and his work.
He was outspokenly gay and without reserve in a time when it wasn’t politically okay to do so. It could have hurt his career, but he was an activist in his own right. There is a brilliant BBC interview series from the ’80s in which I found myself clapping and cheering at some of his answers. He was a cheeky bastard, but brilliant all the same.
I hesitate to call your paintings portraits, they are so much less rigid than traditional portraiture, do you have a classification that you prefer to use?
I loathe the term "portrait." A portrait refers to the accurate representation of someone’s likeness... which is of very little interest to me. My paintings have always walked the line between figurative and the abstract, sometimes swaying to greater degree one way or the other. I have no interest in painting someone’s sibling, or partner or child. My paintings are political, in the sense that I have something to say through my art. They are aggressive and painterly... I’m more concerned with the qualities of paint and ideas that occur extraneous to the painting itself when the sutures of the painting itself are ripped apart.
A portrait is just a nice picture and nothing more. I have little time for ambivalence... I firmly believe that a "pleasant" painting is worthless and about this I’m quite opinionated... Ha!
I saw your work at the San Diego Art Fair in 2013; it stopped me in my tracks because it is so striking. Unique because they represent not only the figure, but they evoke the untold story about each character painted. Do you conduct backgrounds on your subjects before you begin your process, or do you prefer them to be unknown?
I vacillate between painting people I know and then stopping total strangers and asking them to come sit. There is a process of discovery for both the subject and I when they come in to the studio and throughout the process of painting. One of my most painted subjects was actually hit by a truck and in critical condition when I was painting works with him... that was a very scary, very real period.
With some subjects, I do feel such intimate closeness through the process of spending so much time with their likeness, their "face." But in reality, I actually know very little about them and I’m actually okay with that. It was Oscar Wilde who said that every portrait (there’s that word) says more about the painter than the sitter and I firmly believe that.
Ultimately, what I do is quite selfish... I’m like a vampire, I take what I want from those that rouse me and then I leave them. Used up and thrown aside. Its kind of vulgar when you look at it that way, but also quite a romantic idea.
Your technical skills are obvious, your execution is truly wonderful, but it is the emotion that I find so striking in your works, can you talk about how you communicate/express that?
To be totally honest this is what most people speak about... the emotion portrayed throughout the work. In reality, I have no idea... it’s never a conscious decision wherein I say, "Okay, I’m going to paint emotion." I guess somewhere between my earnest approach and the motivations for my work, something gets translated. It’s a huge honor to know the paintings move people.
Salgado’s work will be on exhibition from Saturday, May 24 through Wednesday, July 16 at One Art Space, 23 Warren Street (between Church and
Broadway) Street level - Gallery 1, New York, NY. For more information call 646.559.0535, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or go to
For more information on the artist and his works, join his Facebook page at facebook.com/andrew.salgado.artist