If you find delight in the three-paneled garden of Hieronymus Bosch, you will surely enjoy artwork by self-taught Venezuelan artist Salvador Di Quinzio. “My audience is made up of people who resonate, who vibrate whenever they see something that tickles their mind.” Salvador takes great pleasure in imagining and then painting his stories. He carefully places many clues within his pictorial narratives for those who will take time to look into the details, diving deep into their knowledge of universal myths, symbology, and psychology. “These symbols will be picked up by only a few people. I am interested in the intellectual chemistry that happens at the level of thoughts and ideas.”
One could compare Salvador’s work to Surrealists, but not quite. The artist defines it as Magical Surrealism, which is a form of an intellectual exercise; created by the consciousness as opposed to the Surrealists’s subconscious mind. I can’t help but remember Frida Kahlo, who famously said that people thought she was painting dreams, while she painted her reality.
Growing up the only boy in a household full of women, Salvador spent a lot of time by himself. He created his own toys and staged theatrical performances for kids in the neighborhood. Thus, for example, he recreated sea battles with replicas of 17th century wooden ships, which he made himself. He paid a lot of attention to details, including realistic looking canons that exploded with gun powder he made out of pulverized match heads. Salvador also made puppets and marionettes to entertain family and friends, using branches of the trees in the backyard to control and animate his actors. He also made kites that were very popular with his friends because they were unique and more colorful than those available in stores.
Since he was a child, Salvador has always been an avid reader. He is especially interested in psychology and reads a lot on the topic. Greek mythology – stories of oracles, riddles, dreams, and their interpretations – is another field of interest. “The same thing applies to paintings. The magic is in the interpretation of what you see,” says Salvador. “People’s interpretations may differ from my intentions, but that’s fine with me.” To help his viewers, the artist uses symbols common in many cultures. In addition, the titles of his paintings give much away.
A good example of Salvador’s approach and process is present in his painting “The Abduction of Helen”. Obviously, the woman in the painting is Helen. Who is the guy? Well, who abducted the famous Helen? Paris, of course. Why is he holding an owl? “Because in Etruscan mythology the owl is a sign of wisdom,” Salvador explains. Notice that instead of going towards the water, they are on land. A failed sailing attempt – they didn’t get away too far – represents a failed love affair, which started the famous Trojan War. With the fish being on land Salvador is using a play on words, where, translated from Italian, pescato means “fish that has been caught” and peccato is “sin.” The sin is Helen’s. She is pregnant, hence the egg in their boat, a symbol of creation and new life. “It’s a love story with a tragic end,” adds Salvador. But what a delicious visual interpretation of the classic myth! So many complex ideas in one piece.
After a successful corporate career as an engineer, Salvador searched for a satisfactory way to express himself. But not until he tried his hand at painting, he felt the magic. “Once I did that, I knew. It was just waiting for me. I felt very good about it. And I knew from that moment on, that’s what I was going to do.”
For the artist’s fans, looking at the paintings is as much fun as it is addictive – once you solve one puzzle, you are hungry for more. Creating your own narrative, you know it is not real, but funny enough you can see much resemblance to the real world. It’s because any situation in the outside world can trigger Salvador’s imagination. “Every time I go to a place, I observe. I’m walking, but my mind is doing all the work. It is like I am having a recording machine that is making a movie out of my observations. I am always painting in my head”.
Salvador doesn’t paint according to a schedule. He may go without holding a brush for 5-6 months. “I only paint when I have the urge. It’s a force beyond my control. I may create a large volume of work and then take a long break again.” In the off-time he sketches a lot and writes down a multitude of ideas. These notes and doodles are useful later when he develops personalities and narratives for the new works.
Color is not essential in his paintings; it depends on the story. “Color is just a tool to create a mood. It allows me to set up the psychological atmosphere,” explains the artist, adding that he now works only with acrylic. “Oil was too slow. I’m too impatient. I cannot wait for something to happen.” Another significant part of his signature style is that the artist only paints on Belgian linen, noting its superior quality that hasn’t changed since the days of Rembrandt. Its texture is completely different from cotton canvas and other rough materials used as a base. “Belgian Linen for me is the ultimate. It lasts forever. And when you are applying paint to its surface, it is just too sexy.”
Salvador, who now lives in Philadelphia, is an amalgam of influences from many cultures: from his Venezuelan-Italian family, his country of birth, his country of residence, and many other places in the world where he’s lived, worked, and visited. “I take a little bit from here and there and put it into my own pot. I don’t want to lose my heritage, but I also enjoy what I’ve learned.”
Also check out the Immanence Journal with Salvador’s work on the front page.