Stripping them of their natural colors, coherent lines and even shall we say, good intentions, the works of Jeffrey Salon have been committed to children and to all things emanating from them. Admittedly, quite disturbing these painting may be, his insistence that this message cuts across and should be commonly understood remains uncompromised.
Salon feels time is ticking away and he may not have the privilege of time to even witness these children growing up decently. Their collective future may however be imperfect and grim but for Salon and his art all is not lost.
Innocents at War
Having acquired the knack for illustration early in his life, Salon has always been experimenting with contemporary street-smart images, as he unravels with the versatility of his brushstrokes. Amidst a canvas riddled with bullets, a cloud of uncertainty resulting from nuclear explosion shrouds whatever lies ahead to these two kids. We see them on the verge of desperation and Innocents at War speaks of the painful truth of violent effect on these kids. At an early age, these kids become distraught, traumatized and yes afflicted by what their urban warfare surroundings dictate. Not a pretty picture alright but Salon could not help depicting it. A very alarming scene that even the kids on the painting may not be allowed to view it. Void of sketches or any reference materials, Salon remains unease because even he does not know it he may even paint a worse version soon.
Shadows of Memories, New Heroes' Wish
Meanwhile the work Shadows of Memories, New Heroes’ Wish rebounds on a more romantic tilt. In a hopeful boy, Salon seeks a more positive light as he puts an end to all these prevalent (to paraphrase the Desiderata’s last lines) “sham, drudgery, and even his broken dreams.” This work represents everything that has won for him in major art competitions. Showing Salon’s soft heart and how it could translate to clear blue skies and happy smiles. Like parables, the message is simple and meaningful: what children want may not be a good and comfortable life but affection from a parent or being able to play freely.
If one notices Salon’s deep concern for children’s causes, it is because of a certain Rodrigo Benitez. A man of the world now disgruntled, Benitez was senior artist who sought refuge in his hometown in Bicol. A classmate introduced them and this chance encounter by his house by the sea, a sort-of-Tuesdays-with-Morrie would happen. Through endless hours, they would discuss anything under the sun except art but Salon would recall and reflect them in his works. Time lapsed and city life got Salon busy with his art, Benitez passed away last year. This still hurts Salon to this day. As he continues to fight this younger generation’s struggle, it is also important for him he does not sound as stale as old tobacco as he defends children in a style that is not staid or looks like a propaganda piece.
Peace Deployed is embarks as a serious critique of how the military has behaved or (misbehaved) these days. Salon stands for children’s rights all these are mirrored on the skin of this cold stoic soldier. Simple strokes bring home his thoughts of a war against their suffering and oppression. Notice how Salon plays with the details by employing the complex concepts like honor, love, peace, humility, and hope layered in an ethereal manner.
Salon does well in blending the child’s innocence with a heavy subject matter. Mixing the power of realism with an artistic sensibility that is not too forceful yet you know that you should be on his side. These days, children are being bullied not only in schools and in almost every aspect of their lives -- be it in their very homes and communities.
The abuse of media and all its nasty bits has also been Salon’s major undertaking of late. Today’s television and newspaper have espoused sensationalism that children may not be safe at all even in their very homes. Before they even reach their teens, they have been exposed to the radiation of violence and sexually explicit materials.
Temptation Island: Pearl of the Orient
What distinguishes Salon is his adept sense of composition, his musicality in seeing how his work would be rendered. Loaded with meaning you never really knew what he was telling, you just know he was telling it differently and wonderfully. In Temptation Island Pearl of the Orient, the body becomes the canvas and his message is clear.
In the end, it is all about that grim bitch called poverty that occupies these children in desolation in life. Poverty from concern from government, poverty in looking after one another, resulting in this culture of silence that makes him want to paint to affect his viewers, that we may do something for those young enough to be Salon’s own.
The subject of children has always been a sellable art. How many of these pieces are being displayed in mall art galleries. Although all is not lost, Salon’s sheer artistry could easily paint a pretty picture -- a perfect mother and child, a family strolling in the park, and these will sell at his commanding price. But Salon doesn’t need splats of colors nor fancy lines. His monochrome set marked by attention to hidden manifestations despite life’s atrocities, with a tearful red paint flowing, half his battle is already won.
(photo images from Joy Delgado)