In addition to those we represent, there are many artists that we keep a close eye on. From young artists coming out of Vancouver, to established artists in other countries, and a wealth that fall in between, we follow the progress of the people who fascinate us. Andrew Salgado is one such artist. A few years after graduating from UBC, he caught our attention with his large, painterly portraits and we have enjoyed watching his work develop over the years.
We recently asked Andrew if he would share with our readers his experience of moving from the West Coast to England.
A Canadian Painter in London
In 2007 I decided to commit fully to a career in painting. I had completed a BFA at UBC, but until that point I was balancing studio-time around another job as a waiter at a restaurant off Granville Street, where I would rush to my studio to complete paintings between shifts. In many respects, quitting that job was the cathartic decision that led to where I am now, but at the time I wouldn’t know how significant that decision would be.
To backtrack: for some time my art practice has revolved around what I view as political engagement with identity…how paintings might operate independently from their literal figurative foundation and engage with an exploration of color, reduction of forms, and celebration of substance. While I have a profound love for subject matter, I am propelled by the material qualities of paint, and a process that acknowledges and challenges and draws inspiration from historical convention but remains keenly contemporary. By drawing attention to the tangibility of the work, I aim to invite readings beyond the confines of the painted picture.
In 2008 I installed my first solo-exhibition of note with the help of a few friends. These friends have now gone on to establish themselves in London as Beers.Lambert Contemporary, a successful young gallery in the heart of the city’s Shoreditch neighbourhood – an art district akin to that of New York’s Lower East Side. At the time the paintings were transported by hand from my studio in the Dominion Building to a cavernous, industrial space perched between Gastown and the DTES. The show, entitled Boys’ Night Out, (a rather somewhat sly reference to my recent and affecting experience as victim of a hate-crime) was full of vulnerable faces and paint masquerading as wounded flesh. The exhibition received positive press, a number of well-known local artists made appearances, we had two well-attended receptions as part of the now-defunct SWARM culture crawl, and thankfully I sold more work than I could have anticipated. It was the culmination of months of hard-work, passion, and determination, and, high on the thrill of possibility and riding the wake of that exhibition, I applied to London’s world-renowned Chelsea College of Art & Design, and – to my surprise at the time – was accepted.
I think artists recognize that unlike most careers, we don’t have anything pinning us down to one location. We are people eager for change and experience, and realize that in order to say something important with our work, we should explore, uncover, and experience as much as possible.
If I felt confident leaving Vancouver, it was London that juggled my senses: not long after commencing my Masters, I would find myself comparing an artist’s craft to an egg, and though I assume there are schools that help students polish that egg, Chelsea College took my egg and smashed it on the ground. Of course the option is to walk away from the mess, or begin the lengthy process of picking up the pieces. While this seems anecdotal in retrospect, at the time it was a lengthy and often-frustrating process of trying to redefine who I was as an artist, and to establish my artistic voice.
I find that any art scene changes quite dramatically depending on the city. After my degree I lived for a year in Berlin – an amazing and alternative experience – with an art-scene quite different from what is happening in London, but even London is going through a cultural revolution at present, so I’m lucky to be geographically situated between areas that are porous cultural sites. London in particular has a thriving art scene with openings, events, and great shows popping up regularly. It’s a spellbinding, fascinating, non-stop city. I am a little unfamiliar with the Vancouver scene as of late, but I think from speaking to friends that there has been a lot of change since I left, I have heard about more artist-run, independent, and alternative spaces and I’m eager to get back to Vancouver for some time to truly sink my teeth into all that has been going in the past few years. Of course, my knowledge is of Vancouver as a very photo-friendly city but I do anticipate that the city is transforming to where emerging painting truly has a platform to be seen more ubiquitously, and aggressively.
Yet those experiences I felt during my first year in London proved to be simultaneously overwhelming and exhilarating: I found myself bouncing between moments of utter anxiety to sheer elation – often within quick succession of one another and even, from time-to-time, colliding. It is a bewildering and fascinating city of opposites and excitements on a heightened scale. But if at any point I felt lost, the mere thought of the city’s countless possibilities was enough to push me through the ins and outs of a career defined by my own desire to succeed and continue to grow as an artist. I often think of Oscar Wilde’s famous quote, which is something along the lines of, “if you can’t love London, you can’t love life”.
As I write this, I am on a plane to Vancouver, returning for the first-time since leaving over 4 years ago, and in these quiet moments of contemplation, I often find myself amazed at the journey my life and art has taken. In a recent interview, I stated that “I think happiness equates to peace of mind. And I think people need to work for that happiness. I don’t think anything in life comes without hard work, and if it does, then it’s probably undeserved. I’m an advocate for perseverance, and once one attains what it is they aspire, then I am an advocate for humility and appreciation.” Upon landing, some long-time friends will be at the airport to meet me, but we’re on a strict schedule: coffee at Coo-Coo on Homer & Davie followed by lunch at Salsa & Agave on Pacific Ave. I’ve got butterflies of excitement returning to the familiar stomping grounds that in no small way helped determine my career and shape the person I’ve become. I’m eager to walk the seawall, to smell the saltiness of the air, to visit my old studio in the Dominion Building, to visit a host of galleries and immerse myself in the artistic scene – albeit briefly.
After what undoubtedly will seem like a maddeningly quick visit, I’ll return to London to put the finishing touches on 5-months worth of work for a forthcoming solo show entitled In Order to Rebuild in Korea, and following this, I’ll begin all-new work for a solo show entitled The Misanthrope, with Beers.Lambert in London this October. It’s an exciting time, one that requires perseverance, determination, and confidence. Still, one of my most fervent beliefs is that ‘an artist’s worst enemy is an inflated sense of security in the studio’, since I fundamentally believe that part of an artist’s purpose and pursuit is to ceaselessly challenge oneself, to define and redefine one’s voice and perspective, and never to settle too-resolutely upon any certain sense of comfort, either in life or in-studio.
I may have picked up all the pieces of my egg at one point, but strangely I always look ahead, with equal amounts trepidation and eagerness, to the prospect of smashing that egg on the floor again, and again and again.
ANDREW SALGADO (b. 1982, Canada) holds an MFA from London’s Chelsea College of Art (2009) and a BFA from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada (2005). He has exhibited in London, Berlin, Oslo, Sydney, Vancouver, Toronto, Merida (Venezuela), Niamey (Niger), Chiang Mai (Thailand), and Busan (Korea).
In 2010 he was awarded Courvoisier’s Future 500 and shortlisted for Art of Giving at London’s Saatchi Gallery. The following year Andrew was featured in the Channel 4 (UK) documentary The Science of Art alongside Anish Kapoor and Bridget Riley.
Andrew Salgado lives and works in London, UK.