Accusation by Salustiano


Salustiano Garcia Cruz is a Spanish artist whose portraits commonly feature models selected from the street. Salustiano’s works derive inspiration from Renaissance paintings, as well as from surrealist style and the contemporary world. Through his detailed brushstrokes, we are offered an intimate glance into the minds of people otherwise foreign to us.

This piece, entitled “War”, features a young child with two hands clasped together as though in prayer, yet the child’s eyes offer anything but supplication: gazing fiercely at the viewer, they glower with an icy blue that emerges out of the painting to pierce the viewer’s soul. The flat, minimalist background, painted in a fiery shade of crimson, both draws the viewer’s eye in and repulses it. The vibrant, striking color is attention grabbing and yet simultaneously painful to look upon: the lack of any distinguishing background features and the harshness of the color are intentionally disconcerting. By essentially removing the background, the artist removes context, thus forcing the viewer to focus exclusively on the subject and judge it solely as an individual without all the labels that come with a background story. The gender of the subject, too, is largely ambiguous, encouraging the viewer to base his or her assessment off of the subject’s characteristics merely as a human, uncolored by societal associations.

The background and the child’s attire call to mind a wall of blood, reminiscent of the destruction that war wreaks upon civilians. Small, hunched shoulders, clothed in the red of carnage, seem to bear the weight of an ongoing struggle, while a rigid posture and an oblique glance mark the viewer as an outsider to that very struggle. The child’s cold eyes and sardonic frown, so unbefitting of his or her tender age, evoke a feeling of jadedness caused by experiencing too many of the world’s troubles too soon. In that gaze, both accusation and questioning are present. The child seems to reprimand the viewer for failing to do more to improve the world, to end the wars and bring about a lasting peace. Simultaneously, the child questions: why do such things happen? Why the destruction, the horror? Why corrupt the beauty present in the world? The problems of contemporary society bleed into the art, blurring the distinction between beauty and destruction. Even when the viewer turns away from the painting to return to reality, the blood red backdrop framing that wan face, the uncanny cynicism of an old man marring the expression of a child, the small hands supplicating some unknown power, and the eyes, the unforgettably chilling eyes, question the viewer’s indifference and continue to haunt one’s conscience long after the painting has disappeared from sight.

How does this painting make you feel?