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The World of Coexistence Painted with the Indigenous Emotions of Peru

ARTIST INSIDE 2022 | Paolo Salvador

A World of Coexistence Painted with Peruvian Native Sentiment

For Peruvian Paolo Salvador, his identity as a descendant of the Incas is a source of inspiration that runs through his entire practice.
He received his MFA from the Royal College of Art, lives in Germany, and works primarily in Europe, but the physical distance from his homeland has paradoxically helped him find his roots.
His paintings, with their languid brushstrokes and dreamlike visions, are understood as modernized images of Peruvian mythology.
Using the motifs of tales that emphasize the coexistence of humans and animals, he sends a message to contemporary art about living in harmony.

Paolo Salvador, 파올로 살바도르, Exilio, 2022, Oil on linen, 200 × 200 cm

How have the cities of London and Berlin influenced your work?

London is where I was baptized into a huge cultural heritage, and Berlin is where I became an artist. Both places made me think about identity and reconstruct myself. Moving away from Peru actually made me think about the relationship between the culture I belonged to and my identity. Being multicultural forces you to constantly question yourself. Especially when I had just moved to Berlin, the isolation of the pandemic forced me to change the way I work.

How has the pandemic changed your work?

I was traditionally trained to paint from observation, but during the pandemic it was difficult to work with models. So, I took “selfies” by posing in front of a mirror and portrayed them on canvas. The 17th-century Dutch artist Rembrandt also used mirrors to study the body when he couldn’t afford models. Working in isolation in the studio, observing those emotions of solitude, was also a challenge.

Many of your works feature animals and humans together, such as a naked person on top of a jaguar in the wilderness. Does this represent harmony with nature?

Humans and animals have a long history of symbiosis. In Peru, there are many stories that anthropomorphize animals, which are a source of inspiration for my work. These stories, which are passed down from generation to generation, are not set in a specific time and space, which gives me a lot of room to play with my imagination. That’s not to say I’m talking about complete harmony between animals and humans. I’m aware of the dangers of poisonous cacti and aggressive jaguars, so I think the coexistence of humans and animals in my work can be an opportunity to reflect on reality.

Paolo Salvador, portrait by Nick Koenigsknecht

What could the exploration of humans and animals mean for contemporary art?

Contemporary art is about technology and machines, but I believe we can ask fundamental questions about humanity through the traditional medium of painting. The representation of animals can also be a symbol to describe the reality of human beings. As a nonverbal medium, I believe in the role of painting as a metaphor for reality.


Interview by Heaseung Kang, published on Kiaf 2022 Catalogue