Billowing Histories and Destinies:
Jeff Salôn’s Battle in the Clouds
Carlomar Arcangel Daoana
In his fifth solo exhibition, Battle in the Clouds, Jeff Salôn unleashes the full scale of his figurative prowess in his rendition of a child who reckons with the full weight of his history and destiny, evoked by clouds that take prominence in the picture plane. The clouds—billowing, swirling, surging forth—become the staging ground of images and symbols that suggest the vast possibilities of the individual, from the brave heroes of time past as well as the magnificent cities that have yet to emerge.
Almost always, this lofty realm is populated by predators—their terrific jaws unlocked and letting out a threatening growl—that lend their ferocity on the child. Their symbolic significance cannot be avoided: they function as totems, spirit animals. They tap into an inner reservoir of wildness. In one work, however, it is a deer that serves as the metaphor: a gentle creature whose manner of attentive observation is underscored by a hovering eye, breaking through layers of cumulus.
In the juxtaposition of the real and the symbolic, Salôn creates a surreal world that is freighted with meaning, of how each person carries the burden of the past and the future, both of which hint at some irrevocable transformation. The clouds allude to an innate potential, to what extent that an individual can achieve and externalize his power and abilities. The possibilities, as the idiomatic expression goes, are just “in the clouds,” but in the works, they hint of breakthrough, which largely depends upon the choices the individual makes in the course of his life.
This level of self-realization, the paintings seem to be saying, is not fate, but an act of faith. In “The Conqueror,” a child shields his eyes from the glare of the sun but unflinchingly looks forward, at the viewer, as if he has entirely resolved himself to his purpose. Another child, in “Days of Glory,” charges forth into his future, aware of his inheritance of courage represented by a hero astride on a galloping horse, his sword drawn out, ready to sacrifice his life. In “A Sense of Wonder,” a girl looks up and is awed by the beauty around her, receptive and patient: she has the making of an artist attuned with nature.
The clouds, as Salôn envisions them, are an inextricable part of our existence, the variety of factors and influences that attends the days of our lives. The “battle” alluded to in the title may be suggestive of a personal reckoning or even of tension that comes with an embrace of everything that nudges us towards a materialization of self. Salôn’s figuration is valiant, confident in the belief of a certain kind of fulfillment. His works of stunning beauty and unstoppable force are his argument for such a vision.