Jeff Salon: Lost Stars


Ask any child these days on how to make and simply fly a kite chances are you would meet a long blank stare. The most you can probably solicit is a mere shrug at the thought. And if you are luckier he or she would google at your curious query at a later bored time.

In Buradol(Bicolano for kites) Jeff Salon reprises even deeper to his most favored of themes in childhood–the lost joy of flying kites. Capturing almost ten years of his early life navigating the starched strings of this bamboo-formed airborne plane wrapped with plastic, roaming freely the unadulterated skies at the open fields behind their house in Camarines Sur.
Alapaap. Oil on Canvas, 5x4ft

Early on, as soon as he would wake up, without fail one would find Salon either making a kite or flying one. As the wind gushes towards his face, he feels he is on top or even one with the clouds. Evident in Alapaap one assumes immortality as a kite. Looking up to the big sky one is grateful for the gift of redemption as he appreciates the heavens–exaltation to the most high. As one flies his kite, like a true artist one cannot help but notice the floating characters how God had manually curated the skies, it was here that Salon observed that there are no same clouds as they form our favorite animals, flowers or even the faces of our loved ones.

De Kahon is part of the Buradol Series
Typical to Salon is how he multiplies his messages in a series of artworks, representing the happiness of kite flying in ten parts, in this case assembled in small-boxed pieces. Done in his usual earth tones of brown and gray, Buradolseries does more to paints as Salon even expanded them in three-dimensional pieces using actual wood and nylon string depicting his images on them.

Being aerodynamic by nature, kites usually take the shape of anthropomorphic forms like fish (the gills have their purpose in flight), bats, birds or even water buffaloes. Oftentimes they are airplanes where a pointed front controls its direction and the tail navigates the wind from below. In fact in kite parlance, he who holds the strings is a pilot while the co-pilot is the one who releases it while walking backwards.

Reflected in Buradol series kite-flying levels off whatever class or gender there are in youth groups. Salon’s friends have gone far and away from the fields and from where they fly are now patches of a larger subdivision. In these trying times, it uplifting that Salon’s images of children are built on sterner stuff. They are tough yet meek at heart and competitive when flying side by side but they can help repair a kite once he sees a kid badly needing assistance.

In these scenes, Jeffrey also pays tribute to his father who is not only a great teacher but a fine carpenter who taught him how to handle the saw and hammer a nail and build whatever his mind sets him to create or recreate.

With figures predominantly in almost ash gray tones, with the strings in hand, by looking at these works Salon allows you to escape time or better yet he simulates you in his time. These were the moments Salon and his friend dreamed their dreams. They learned life by making kites, how one should not sacrifice quality of materials just because it is cheap or available. The better the bamboo the more protective the spine as more weight will pull you down. The pointer of the kite is most important as it directs the flight, like being focus on where you want to go. One could say he learned the rudiments of his being artist through by mixing art and science of kite flying as well.

Buradol sa Uran. Mixed Media, 2014

Capturing every ethereal emotion Buradol sa Uran rekindles fond memories of Salon growing up in his hometown in the province. Starting with a frame in the form of a house, the kite shaped canvas features other activities he enjoyed as a child like idling on top of water buffaloes. He compliments the use of metallic colors like gold and silver mixed with primary hues like red and yellow. Typical to Salon is his clouds that places you in between a dreamy state or a foggy situation either which way he hopes one can get out of it. His clouds blend to the rustic primary finish he adopts as base–a semblance of decay with a promise of escape or epiphany, Salon is most effective in conceptualizing this.   

Tanaw. Mixed media, 5x4ft. 2014

As December ushers the start of amihan, bringing coolness in the breeze, Salon recalls they would even extend up until the wee hours of the morning come yuletide season. Tanaw reverses the perspective and assigns the viewer as if one is being/feeling feted as a kite himself. As one surges upward, one notices how we are caught in the quagmire from below–from the larger picture of how largely polluted our oceans are or how densely populated our desperate metropolis to how families have been divided not material poverty but of the spirit. Despite having the freedom from above one opts to be spared from gory and even gruesome setting we may not see but be witnesses to. Although Tanaw is a self-portrait, Salon opts to cover his vision in the presence of inevitable bi-polar negative and positive vibes. There is always the silver lining (as his primary canvas) where the rainbow celebrates the brightness of a new tomorrow.

The Challenger. Oil on Canvas, 8×5 ft. 2014
The brilliance of Salon is how he conceals his intents and purposes to his creative devices appointing his viewer the subliminal connotations to his meanings. The rendering in The Challenger is apt for a children’s book however see how his unified kites confront death as it explodes in an almost cinematic progression beaming a skull from behind. The allegory in the redness of flight/fight against what constitute progress wasted on the young—ideals against technology etc.

Like the kite one can only be swayed or even find its way out of this mess, based on how it wants to intensify and command on the available air to guide him. By flash movement in the overlapping kite flyers, war and its ugly head has been a recurring presence in Salon’s works he remains positive as the child overcomes the adult in Salon. Notice how Salon abhors stillness by incorporating cartoons to subvert the brutality of it all. Only Salon can paint children is softer but fierce in stance. 

The late Steve Jobs did not allow his children when they were young to use computers at home. The inventor and Apple co-founder believed that the best way for them to learn the rudiments was to be with nature and play outdoors. With gadgets kids these days are losing their motor skills, or just being in touch with the earth. Even with the recurring theme of combat and violence, Salon’s realism may not be as political as social but they imbibe empathy by examining your senses to a maximum reality. 

As a visual artist, Salon has always kept his ear to the ground in being considered the last generation who learned to play in the streets. Those were summer spent without ipods, Cartoon Network, Twitter and Facebook but he was pleased as unraveled in these latest works. His only worry that these paintings don’t end up as instructional materials in a dusty museum in a not so distant time.

Buradol is the 3rd Solo Exhibition of Jeff Salon. It is ongoing at the Nineveh Artspace in Sta. Cruz, Laguna as part of its 11th anniversary celebrations.