Thursday 19 September 2019

What Lies Beneath: Me and My 'Dad' in McDonalds by Salvatore of Lucan

Me and My 'Dad' in McDonalds by Salvatore of Lucan, Oil on cotton canvas, Courtesy of the artist

Me and My 'Dad' in McDonalds by Salvatore of Lucan
Me and My 'Dad' in McDonalds by Salvatore of Lucan

Niall MacMonagle

In Munich in the 1980s a young Irish woman fell in love with a young man from Bangladesh. Summer loving. They separated. She was pregnant. Back in Dublin she gave birth, named him Salvatore and began to build her life. The father visited his one-year-old son, stayed a week, and wasn't seen again until Salvatore, now aged 24, was contacted via social media. Miami-based father and son from Lucan met up last February in New York and Salvatore has no plans to meet him again.

But he captured the encounter in this zany double portrait now on view at the National Gallery as part of this year's Zurich Portrait Prize. His father hasn't seen the portrait. Salvatore gets along without him very well

Though the setting is McDonald's, in fact they met up in Katz's Deli in the Lower East Side, where Harry watched Sally fake it. The oddly-angled, sharp-edged painting with its loud colours, lines, squares, patterns create a wacky effect. The table top, viewed from above, contains fine details: that cardboard container, the two cola-shadowed paper cups.

A serious-looking, hard-to-catch-his-eye, bearded dad looks into space. Salvatore in custard trousers, ziz-zag shirt and Nikes looks puzzled, pained, disgruntled. His head is in the wrong place. Viewing the work demands contortion. "I've always wanted to paint my body with my head underneath as in the Japanese myth."

Growing up with his mam, nan and half-sister in Lucan, "women are the authority figures in my life", Salvatore now goes by Salvatore of Lucan, a place he loves. "I make work for people close to me. My work is for people of Lucan." Irish punk poet Jinx Lennon, singer Myles Manley and Brit Pop Rock Band Pulp whose lead singer never knew his dad are important influences. "I connect with artists of similar upbringing."

After Leaving Cert, "200 points", Salvatore spent time hairdressing. "My mam thought art 'a no, no' in a low-income family" but he did get to NCAD and "made a show of myself". Self portraits include one of him playing Fifa Xbox and Me and Ghostie kissing - Ghostie being an ex-girlfriend.

He's now painting Me and My Girlfriend Lucy with Three Hands and Me Holding On to Her Leg. Some show.

Hand Embellished Limited Print Editions of 'Me and My 'Dad' in McDonalds' are available from Hang Tough Gallery.

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