Andrew Salgado on his Upcoming Show at VOLTA Basel
The artist talks about his recent series "This is Not the Way to Disneyland."
Andrew Salgado can’t imagine being anything other than an artist. He considers this to be his most defining characteristic. His sense of conviction has given him the drive to produce work that is meaningful to him on a personal level and has, at the same time, gained him recognition as a young artist to watch. This month at VOLTA Basel, Salgado will be showing a new series of 10 works at Beers London’s booth. In anticipation of the art fair, Salgado talks to artnet News about what being an artist means to him, where his inspiration comes from, and what his creative process is like.
When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
I often find myself talking about how being ‘an artist’ is the only thing that actually defines me, in the sense that it determines and dictates how I live my life, the choices I make, and the desires, goals, and directives I have. I think that without my art, I don’t exist. It’s the only thing that truly rouses me in the morning. I often wonder what I’d do without it…I’d be so boring. Maybe I’d become a proficient cook or something. Nothing else I do is that important to me. But still, it’s important to have a sense of humor with art. As my good friend and gallerist Kurt Beers of Beers London says, “You may not be saving lives with art, but you are changing the world”
What are some things that inspire you?
When I was younger, I used to think that inspiration had to come from some divine place. That becomes tiresome—and quite trite—rather quickly. It’s important to recognize how little things can become larger. My recent body of work was inspired by a quote from a 13-year-old boy, a victim of the serial killer William Bonin and his four cronies who terrorized young boys in Florida in the ‘80s. Apparently he said somewhere along this fateful journey, “This is not the way to Disneyland.” That’s horrific. I like this idea of duality, where something that seems so saccharine might actually be tragic, or horrific. But to me, the works take that initial point as their launching pad and run tangentially from there.
One particular work in the series, entitled Oh!, was actually directly inspired by a dollar-store party hat, [one of] those conical ones for kids with the elastic chinstrap. I think it’s important not to ‘overthink’ and let little, often insignificant or arbitrary things—a song, a hat, a friend, a memory, a color, an idea, a book—become metonym for a larger, more metaphorical, and ultimately more personal message. But what each piece means to me is neither correct nor incorrect; it’s important for me that the viewer takes their own narrative from the works.
How do you decide what to title your works?
Again, a causal, almost arbitrary process is key. The working title usually sticks. For this body of work, I’m going really aloof, with titles that pull from direct reference to the works themselves. One piece was originally titled I’ve Been Looking at Bjarne Melgaard, but I thought that was a bit too cute; it was renamed after that film and song Orpheo Negro. My friend, the painter Dale Adcock, has this amazing ritualistic practice of firstly writing stream-of-consciousness words or phrases onto paper, then weeks later drawing something without seeing that word that was written. He says there is always a strange link. I painted Dale for this show; we used the same method and it was strangely, eerily related.
Describe your creative process. What kinds of patterns, routines, or rituals do you have? Do you ever experience artist’s block? What do you do to overcome it?
When I was younger I asked one of my heroes how to overcome these blocks. She isn’t a painter, but a musician, and strangely she answered me in artistic terms. She said, “You have to clean your palette, and then collect things that mean something to you—thoughts, conversations, a souvenir, a photo—and let them resonate together.” Nowadays, I never have artist’s block, almost the opposite. [I have] so much to say with paint, but one has to be critical. Editing is key. I also take at least a month off between each body of work to regenerate. I leave London and go somewhere warm. This time, it’s Thailand. I need to be barefoot in the sand for a while, and feel the sun on my face. People often say, “Oh, you must get so much inspiration while you’re on holiday,” and actually, no, it’s the only time I have to switch off.
What shows rank among the best you’ve ever seen and why?
There have been a few shows in my life that have changed not only how I viewed that artist, but how I understood painting as a whole: Daniel Richter at the Helen and Morris Belkin Gallery in Vancouver in 2005, Peter Doig at the Tate Britain in 2008, Francis Bacon at the Tate Britain in 2009, and Bjarne Melgaard at Astrup Fernley in 2010. Sometimes it’s not so grandiose—just a small show, or even just a painting that really moves you. I’m curating a show at Beers London called “The Fantasy of Representation” that opens July 30, and I’m asking some amazing painters to exhibit, including Hurvin Anderson, Eckart Hahn, Alexander Tinei, Sverre Bjertnaes, Justin Mortimer. It’s a way for me to say, “Look, these are people that have influenced me, so I want to share them with you, too.”
What plans do you have for your solo presentation at VOLTA?
I did 10 new paintings; we will exhibit six. It was really tough to cull which to bring because each painting does something so different. Everything is big, loud, bright, crude, just a little bit ugly…I’ve really gone over the top. More is more is more.
What does an average day in the studio look like for you?
I never stop working. I drink too much coffee. I listen to lots of music. I come home with sore feet and just want to watch stupid television and stop running my brain on overdrive.
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