Manuel Solano is remembering making an attempt to color for the primary time after going blind. “I assumed it was a joke: I assumed 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 collection Blind Transgender with Aids: a bitter joke reflecting their conviction that the work would appeal to 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 High of Every Ripple, at Dundee Modern Arts affords a latest overview. The livid Blind Transgender with Aids collection has given strategy to atmospheric work evoking episodes from Solano’s reminiscence: a lady with heavy bangles dropping her automotive keys on a glass-topped corridor desk; the mural above a mall entrance; an toddler enjoying with plastic whale toys by the TV.
It took time for Solano to develop a strategy to work once more. Dropping their sight was one hurdle: dropping independence one other: “I used to be very a lot a loner earlier than I grew to become blind. One of many hardest classes has been having to depend on different individuals and settle for that I would like 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 approach preconceptions round gender identification 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 12 months).
The hyperlink between dinosaurs and birds has been recognized for years, explains Solano, but they’re seldom pictured with feathers: “Lots of the values related to birds are, in human phrases, related to femininity: they’re fragile, they’re swish, they’re flamboyant.” It is for that reason, the artist suggests, that dinosaurs stay lizard-like within the standard 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 identification. For a efficiency in 2012, they recreated Sinéad O’Connor’s notorious pope-ripping look on Saturday Evening Stay. 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’d say even suicidal for a time: I hated taking a look at myself within the mirror.”
Solano quickly realised they didn’t need to turn into that grown man: that they have been changing into a distinct particular person. “My brother put it very eloquently. He stated that I regarded like a lady who was making an attempt to appear to be a person. That felt very on level.” A fascination with “masculine” ladies – 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 Nineteen Eighties-inspired silhouettes that billow seductively within the breeze.
I counsel Masculina defies taboos connected to the unwell physique. “I wished the viewers to see that it’s not an unwell physique,” Solana gently corrects me. “It’s a physique that went by way of sickness, and previous it. Lots of people overlook that. I’ve to always remind myself that I’m wholesome and delightful.”
After shifting to Berlin in 2019 they discovered themselves seduced by the town’s liberated physique tradition; its bare swimming and saunas. “Years in the past, I’d have been utterly terrified to do that, being lined in scars,” Solano admits, however now “I’ve found virtually 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.”