“Through the visual voice of painting, I communicate emotion. We are complex of mind and spirit, my intent as a contemporary portrait artist is to explore the human psyche through painting these complexities. I’m interested in portraying this aspect rather than focussing on the surface level alone. My landscape paintings also go beyond the visual perception, I am more concerned with portraying the feelings evoked by being in a place.”
— Steve Salo
Steve Salo is an Australian contemporary artist, best known for his emotive portraiture and expressive landscape paintings.
Steve showed a natural talent for painting at a young age, getting his first oil paints at the age of eight. Of Ukrainian descent, he received early encouragement from his craftsman grandfather (‘dido’) who lived next door in Herne Hill, Geelong. His dido taught him many things, including the importance of doing your craft with love and full effort and attention. Hours upon hours in the workshop observing the patience and passion that went into his woodwork and bootmaking left an indelible mark. Respect your tools, look after them, create an environment that inspires your best work.
As a child, in and out of hospital with severe asthma, Steve found solace and self-expression through his drawings. His first studio was at age 16, the family’s outdoor bungalow amid the orchard. These early influences have carried through to the evocative paintings Steve creates today. Studying books about the master painters and experimenting in many mediums and across various subject matter, he is largely self-taught.
In his 20’s and into his 30’s, art didn’t seem to fit with the world around him and Steve painted sporadically. Working in graphic design, picture framing and a host of other jobs, he felt a deepening frustration. A fire in his Torquay studio in early 2013 brought Steve’s art to a cross-road. Losing most of his art history and materials, he realised painting was what he wanted and needed to be doing. He committed to boundless experimentation and to no longer hoarding what he created. Painting full-time, his solo exhibition Portraits of Artists was held at Metropolis Gallery, Geelong, in 2014. Since then, he’s created more shows: Passerby, The Back to Back Theatre Portraits, Expressions of Landscape, Halcyon Days and Recent Paintings.
Steve’s profile as a contemporary artist continues to grow, with paintings shortlisted in prestigious prizes across Australia and awarded a prize in Florence, Italy. An artist of international appeal, his works are in private collections in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, China, Hong Kong, UAE, Europe, the UK, USA and Canada.
In 2017 he undertook artist residencies in coastal Portsea, Victoria and in the Hämeenkyrö lake region in Finland. Paintings from the Finland residency were shown at the Embassy of Finland in Canberra as part of the event program for the Suomi Finland 100 centenary of independence. Works inspired by his residency at Police Point were exhibited at Metropolis Gallery in 2018, along with highly expressive portrait works reflecting the human presence. In 2018 Steve also completed his largest-ever painting, a 2m x 3m landscape ‘Fire and Life’ for a private commission.
In 2019 Steve returned to the Mornington Peninsula for three weeks to create more works for Pier to Point, exhibited at the Frankston Arts Centre, Melbourne. Portraits was exhibited at Metropolis Gallery. He was selected to have a stand at Saatchi’s The Other Art Fair Sydney in October 2019 and hopes to return for future Fairs post-Covid.
Steve continues to create new works for Whitewall Art Projects in Berrima and at Art2Muse Gallery in Sydney, with solo exhibitions during 2021. He also exhibited Sea Breeze, a series of seascapes, at the Blackroom Gallery in Flinders in early 2021.
With a studio he calls heaven, Steve is now on his way to realising his dream; making a life and a living from his painting.
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