Manuel Solano is remembering making an attempt to color for the primary time after going blind. “I believed it was a joke: I believed it was over for me, as a painter.”
Their work from that interval is harsh and pressing, clawed on to the canvas in jangling color. Solano named the sequence Blind Transgender with Aids: a bitter joke reflecting their conviction that the work would entice consideration solely as a curiosity. “These silly, ugly work … it was like giving the finger to the visible, totally abled world.”
Born in Mexico Metropolis, now based mostly in Berlin, Solano was 26 once they misplaced their sight to an HIV-related sickness that left their already slight physique scarred. Their earlier work was cool and exact: work of glacial, otherworldly interiors, and performances that performed on their androgynous magnificence. A brand new exhibition, The Prime of Every Ripple, at Dundee Modern Arts provides a current overview. The livid Blind Transgender with Aids sequence has given approach to atmospheric work evoking episodes from Solano’s reminiscence: a girl with heavy bangles dropping her automobile keys on a glass-topped corridor desk; the mural above a mall entrance; an toddler taking part in with plastic whale toys by the TV.
It took time for Solano to develop a approach to work once more. Dropping their sight was one hurdle: shedding independence one other: “I used to be very a lot a loner earlier than I turned blind. One of many hardest classes has been having to depend on different folks and settle for that I want assist in some conditions.” Solano labored with shut family and friends: an ex-partner now runs their studio with three manufacturing assistants (“a bunch of very gifted painters in their very own proper”). They’ve developed a technique of mapping every working canvas into sections utilizing nails, wire and pipe-cleaners, round which Solano navigates by contact.
DCA has programmed a season of music, readings and movies linked to Solano’s work. One shock inclusion is Jurassic Park. A dino nerd as a child, Solano now sees the positioning of dinosaurs in popular culture as symptomatic of the bizarre method preconceptions round gender id manifest (certainly, this would be the topic of a brand new physique of labor to be proven at London’s Carlos/Ishikawa gallery later this yr).
The hyperlink between dinosaurs and birds has been recognized for years, explains Solano, but they’re seldom pictured with feathers: “Quite a lot of the values related to birds are, in human phrases, related to femininity: they’re fragile, they’re swish, they’re flamboyant.” It is because of this, the artist suggests, that dinosaurs stay lizard-like within the in style creativeness: we now have come to establish them with masculine character traits.
Sickness got here simply as Solano was beginning to discover their very own gender id. For a efficiency in 2012, they recreated Sinéad O’Connor’s notorious pope-ripping look on Saturday Night time Reside. Shaving their head for the efficiency, thought Solano, was “going to be the second I went from being a really female boy to a extra masculine grown man like my dad.” As a substitute, they felt intensely uncomfortable, “I might say even suicidal for a time: I hated myself within the mirror.”
Solano quickly realised they didn’t wish to turn out to be that grown man: that they had been changing into a distinct individual. “My brother put it very eloquently. He mentioned that I regarded like a girl who was making an attempt to appear like a person. That felt very on level.” A fascination with “masculine” girls – Robin Wright, Michelle Obama – emerges in Solano’s work of popular culture icons. Within the video work Masculina, the artist seems as if in a vogue shoot or music video, wearing revealing Eighties-inspired silhouettes that billow seductively within the breeze.
I counsel Masculina defies taboos connected to the sick physique. “I wished the viewers to see that it’s not an sick physique,” Solana gently corrects me. “It’s a physique that went by sickness, and previous it. Lots of people neglect that. I’ve to continuously remind myself that I’m wholesome and delightful.”
After transferring to Berlin in 2019 they discovered themselves seduced by town’s liberated physique tradition; its bare swimming and saunas. “Years in the past, I might have been fully terrified to do that, being lined in scars,” Solano admits, however now “I’ve found nearly a ardour for being in a bunch the place everyone is bare. With time, I’ve realized to not take into consideration my scars any extra. Lots of people appear to not even discover them.”