The works of the contemporary Chilean painter Franco Salas Borquez depict the sea, the sole subject of his paintings. Fascinated by the ocean, the artist chose painting as an intermediary between his senses and this very unique natural environment so he could express its power and beauty through his brush strokes.
Franco Salas Borquez, a self-taught painter with an unusual background
Franco Salas Borquez is a contemporary painter, who was born on the island of Chiloé in 1979. He has been painting since his childhood and uses it as a way of being able to take a step back from the sea that surrounds him, as well as employing it in the dual search for identity and a sense of the graphic. He confesses: "I believe that painting is a way of finding yourself." Therefore, he has been experimenting graphically throughout his personal journey towards becoming a painter whose sole output is in celebration of the sea.
This graphic research involves the use of different techniques such as ink on canvas, pencil on paper, marble dust and oil on canvas and has become the practical base for Franco Salas Borquez's self-taught style. As well as painting, the artist was formerly a professional chess player, a profession where he travelled the world to attend competitions.
In the early 2000s, he was selected by the Chilean Embassy in Paris to join a cultural programme to teach Spanish in French schools and at the IUFM in Paris and Strasbourg. So he set up his studio in France, and for some time he attended a studio of Parisian artists before opting for solo painting, which he deemed necessary for being able to develop in his work, which has since become prolific: "A painter's work is something that takes place in the studio and it requires solitude. Sometimes you feed off others so much that you lose yourself."
Painting as contemplation of the sea
An islander by birth, Franco Salas Borquez has a close relationship with the sea, since this natural element represents much more than a landscape for him. Hailing from a family of sailors that he sometimes accompanied to sea, he has experienced just how powerful the ocean can be, and his desire to paint it is fuelled by fear just as much as by fascination. He states: "I was fascinated by painting, and it was as a painter that I returned to the sea." It was therefore with the help of oil paint and canvas that he found the means to reflect on the sea, as painting gave him enough distance to really appreciate the power of the waves instead of being afraid of them.
Franco Salas Borquez sees depicting the sea as a constant challenge, and although he has dedicated his career to it, he does not seek to reveal the mystery which is such an intrinsic part of this landscape. Through his paintings, he manages to overcome the genuine vertigo experienced at sea in order to create an aesthetic vertigo in both his works and their reception.
To achieve this, Franco Salas Borquez reflects carefully about every gesture when creating his nature and landscape paintings. He declares: "Painting the sea requires fluid strokes, and the fluidity of the brush stroke distances me from the material. It’s like a link to something metaphysical, which is real but transparent and symbolic." Thus, he creates his paintings through an intuitive but rigorous process where the strokes are as fluid as the subject represented on the canvas. The rigorousness he applies to his work must not exclude a certain indefinable quality: without ever losing control, the artist seeks to surpass himself as a means of creating works that touch everybody universally, recalling humanity's weakness in the face of the elements.
Franco Salas Borquez considers painting as a pictorial challenge, and he prefers spontaneity to the pure thought required by his former profession of chess player, and is happy to compare the two: "The sea is ultimately a fairly limited subject, but I like to play with these limits, it fascinates me. It's like a game of chess where the board has 24 pieces, but there are infinite possibilities of combinations."
Internationally exhibited work
Franco Salas Borquez's work first met with criticism that went on to form the basis of his current success. While critics may have previously had reservations about his monographic work, these same works are now exhibited in museums collections and in numerous international galleries and fairs. With an award from Spain's Institute for Maritime History and Culture in 2010, and another from the Paris Marine Museum in 2011 and 2014, he has also received an accolade from the Ministry of Defence for his contemporary painting.
Video: Teaser for the artist Franco Salas Borquez’s personal exhibition "Le Sillage", Chapelle St Sauveur, Saint Malo, France (2019). Directed by Virgile Paimblanc.
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