The Snake (2016)
Beers London, London, UK
12 Nov. – 17 Dec. 2016
The Snake was largely inspired by the recent Orlando massacre in Florida, which killed 49 people, making it the largest mass-murder in American history. Salgado subscribes quotes Francis Bacon: ‘it’s not the paintings that are violent, but the world itself’, Salgado finds himself once again revisiting themes of brutality, destruction and re-birth.
Salgado has created a ‘Garden of Eden’, lining the gallery with grass and painting the entire space green. Salgado claims that there’s a darkness to the works. “I want people to feel like they’re walking into clandestine space,” he states. “there’s something evil and seductive about the show.”
Arriving in the wake of Brexit and Trump as President, the works tell a story about the state of acceptance globally. Many of the subjects represent outsiders, each of them an alien, wounded soul, or outcast in some way, painted on canvases that have been and stitched and hand-dyed by the artist. Let’s Start A War depicts Salgado’s first ever Muslim-born subject, which is embellished with icons and symbols, including a Klu Klux Klan leader brandishing a burning cross. “We’re waking-up every morning to more race-related attacks and assaults based on sexual or religious preferences. We seem to have reached our lowest point, the deepest hatred for our neighbour, and these sentiments ricochet like some horrific echo chamber.”
For the first time, females figure strongly, including a Egypt (The Fiddle and Drum), titled after the Joni Mitchell anti-war anthem; The Dancing Serpent, a hopeful work that Salgado places as the ‘heart’ of the exhibition titled after the Charles Baudelaire poem; and ultimately concluding with the confrontational Chysalis (Portrait of a Girl), which features Salgado’s first transgender subject. The show is meant to be read as one full cycle, like the Ouroboros – an ancient Grecian symbol of a snake consuming its own tail, to symbolize something recreating itself. In many ways, the metaphor of the snake appeals to Salgado as this symbol of re-birth and healing, as well as his own process of ‘shedding his skin’ as a painter. The knowledge, pain, fear, pleasure, and joy that comes with being human.