Mexican Artist Salvador Diaz on Death, Fantasy, and the Color Red

Interview The Arts


The Mexican artist Salvador Diaz has gained international recognition with his three series: “Album de Familia,” “Diarios de Viaje y Desplazamiento,” and “Periodicos.” The world that he creates through this intelligent use of words and pictures is full of messages, some quite subtle and some very obvious, but more importantly, all true to his belief that art captures time.


Through the art of Salvador Diaz, as in his series "Periodicos" where newspapers are canvases, we have a temporary sensation in the headlines of a newspaper, a medium which presents old news as soon as it’s published, immortalized in the collective memory of society through the painting for which it serves as a canvas.


In the following, Salvador comments on five selected pieces which he discussed with Laura Scheriau, The Mantle’s Arts & Culture editor.



El Flautista de Hammelin by Salvador Diaz



“El Flautista de Hamelin” from the series "Album de Familia" plays with the reference to everyone's childhood and our collective memory, portraying this legendary German character from an Eighth Century tale, which was later adapted in the Eighteenth Century by the Grimm brothers. The scene in this painting has passed through time.


The red color, color of passion and love or violence and blood, is justified in two different ways: first, referencing the violence aspect, the red stands for the blood of all the disappearing children in our corrupt society, a problem which is not a first or third world problem, but present in all societies all over the world. And second, the red color reflects light like no other color, draping the statue of the Flutist of Hameln in a royal cape.


This piece can be interpreted in various ways: historically, politically, from a child's point of view, and in the end reflects our society from today. This scene, in which a child is captured forever in play, dressing up rats and attracting them with his play, is like an immortal scene of childhood. The child is made out of white marble and tells us to stop and think about what we will do when we grow up, with all that we have learned, lived, and remembered.



Ella No Me Escucha by Salvador Diaz



I am speaking to her. She is my muse, and I am speaking to the picture, to the inspiration, the creative process and my own capacity as a painter. And I am asking myself who is this woman, will she be joining me? Why is she not listening? Is it because we sometimes don't say what we mean or because she doesn't understand?


The painting is referring to a piece of art by the French artist W.A. Bouguereau, which I saw on a trip to the Museum of San Antonio, Texas. This painter is extraordinary, with his classic-realistic style, which in the Nineteenth Century seemed out of place next to new creations and possibilities in art from painters like Cezanne and Van Gogh. This is why this painting is part of my series “Diarios de Viaje y Desplazamientos.”



Ficcion I by Salvador Diaz



This massive squid is actually inside a tank in a museum, and I kept asking myself: How did the Kraken get into the tank? That, I still do not know, but it's your turn to think outside the box and with my “Ficcion I,” a fiction in real life that I saw it in the Mueso de Ciencias Naturales de Madrid, Spain, I would like you to start. The painting is from my series "Diarios de Viaje y Desplazamiento," which are fragments of life, of what each one of us could discover every day, and that painting, sketching, and drawing helps us capture moments and leave testimonies of our presence, with all the amazing features of modern technology that could do the job for us, like photography and video.


FYI: in this museum you are not allowed to take photos. As I was walking along the room, I had the urge to take a photo of this big creature, and I asked the guard if it were possible to take one for my series. So this photo shows that laws can be stretched. And I am proud to be in the picture. In fact I even represented the two chatty women who entered the showroom just as the guard was taking the picture. If you look closely you may see them in the reflection on the glass.



Paradies by Salvador Diaz



When you put a shell to your ear, you can listen to the ocean, trapped inside the shell for all eternity. But the shell is empty, no living thing inhabits it anymore, and it's far away from the sea.


If paradise is not real, then I think it might be possible that the human being could be recorded, saved in his skull like an echo—their lives, memories and loved ones remembered, just like the shell remembers the sea.



Scrat Companies by Salvador Diaz


The relation between my painting and the media in this form measures our society's pulse. Painting this internationally renowned character from the movies on the finance pages creates not only an allusion to money or consumerism, but to any objective or obsession that we struggle with. It tells us that whatever it is, we are small peanuts in comparison with all the rest and the complexity of the world, which has a pace and a cycle which might not include our plans and dreams. And that anyway, each and every one of us is saving their little world and reality with its flaws and dreams and beauties, fighting for the comfort of this last little vice that belongs only to us. Like Scrat, who is fighting an everyday struggle to reach the nut, disregarding even the laws of physics and logic to get to it. 



Ex Arte, Art, Painting, Technology, Collage