Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A week in Salvador, part 1: the city


 A stationers, oil on card, 15 x 13.5 cm

A little restaurant, oil on card, 14.5 x 18 cm

A view of a promontory, oil on card, 13  x 15 cm

An Arch, entrance to a public garden, oil on card, 14 x 17.5 cm

                                          Rooftops, oil on card,16 x 17.5 cm NOT FOR SALE


Salvador is a big city, beautifully located on a series of hills on a peninsula. It is an interesting place and is often melancholy.

This is, in part, is because it is architecturally claustrophobic, often turning away from the sea in a series of small, crooked streets. Many of the shops seem peculiarly small and cramped  too, as if designed for children, with everything sold in comically small quantities.

The city is generally in a state of ruin:  handsome old buildings are falling to pieces; there is vandalism, graffiti, neglect and filth.  Much recent construction is shoddy. I watched workmen construct a brick set pavement: the result was something that will surely become impassable after a day of rain.

 In this mess are beggars begging, children begging, prostitutes offering themselves,  crack users lying asleep on the pavements, and every other example of social degeneracy that you might wish to discover. 

There are also a remarkable number of stray cats: these are considerably more pleasant creatures to have as strays than the dogs that roam other Brazilian cities. Does their presence there in Salvador have something to to with many Salvadorians having Middle eastern heritage?

But the population is majoritively African in racial origin, usually mixed in some way. I found everyone very pleasant. There is a genteel quality to many of even the most banal social exchanges in Brazil, which appear to comment ironically on the crumbling infrastructure ( this serves as a rebuke to those, usually on the left, who believe that poverty somehow necessitates nastiness, as well as pointing a contrast with the people of New York who seem considerably less capable of simple courtesies, despite having far better living conditions). 

 I met some Jehovah`s Witnesses (there is an awful lot of God in Salvador) who were so pleasant and sweet tempered in their little suits and long dresses that I almost took their offer to join them for Bible studies classes seriously. There are also, in touristic places, splendid women wearing  gigantic dresses, so that they resemble huge dolls.


At first I stayed in Pelhourinho which has a fine concentration of colonial buildings, a well restored enclave.

Then I met a Frenchman called Pierre Pophillat who offered me the use of an apartment in the centre in exchange for a painting, an offer I was happy to accept as my hotel room was noisy at night from the carousing in the street below (making noise is a popular pastime in Brazil generally: Salvador perhaps especially. 

They also like to talk a great deal. Anything can become the subject of an interminable conversation, and if you have nothing new to say, you can simply repeat what you have already said many times over, as it is doubtful that you interlocutor is really listening anyway: this is conversation as a social ritual taken to its logical conclusion: everyone, other than those stupid or unfortunate enough to actually want or need to achieve anything, derives great pleasure from this).


This first set of three blogger entries shows firstly some of the small shops and buildings in the market, and more general views of or from the city. I feel that I have managed to move up in size. There is a children`s book quality about some, and this derives both from my decisions to use larger brushes, brighter colours, and from a quality of the place itself. And there is a Sickertian quality about the first two, I feel: Sickert is a painter of  claustrophobic sadness.


  1. I think your Salvador paintings are among my favourites of the last several years. Lovely. (your description is excellent too.)

    1. Thanks Nick. I am happy with them.

      I changed style and approach about five years ago- I think the dividends from this are finally paying off. TD