Asser Saint-Val is a young emerging artist who was born in Haiti in 1974 and has resided in Miami for the past twenty four years. He received a B.F.A. from New World School of the Arts in 2004 and is a prominent figure within the highly evolving Miami Art Scene. For over a decade, Saint-Val has been investigating melanin. Melanin is the basis of human physiological differences and Saint Val’s endeavor is to transform melanin into a tangible form. Melanin is also the chemical responsible for skin, hair, and eye color as we know it; yet it is also found in the nervous, auditory, vestibular systems which are called neuromelanin and/or “Junk DNA.” This research has taken Saint-Val on an artistic journey that brings to light the fallacious history that accompanies all aspects of human life: race, culture, identity, politics, education, sex, spirituality, and health.
Saint-Val’s early phases involved paintings depicting figurative representations of Haitian women in a picturesque island environment. The figures radiate a rich terra cotta hue; making the pigment not of the obvious but luminous and soulful. A combination of ardor, elicit beauty and sensuality with an impression of self awareness reveals an evolving connection between the artist and his audience.
As time progressed, Saint-Val began research on the phenomenon of melanin. In his third phase, an evolution from figurative representation took on a more abstract figurative form. Saint-Val visually translates melanin into ambiguous, suspended, moving forms with human appendages and utilitarian objects attached. Depictions and motion of the human appendages in his paintings relay a quiet dialogue of the history on the debate of melanin among Western Scientists and Non-Western Scientists. The titles of Saint-Val’s paintings are often long elaborate book references that pay tribute to the scholars, scientist, and writers who have worked closely on the subject of melanin.
In his present phase, Saint-Val deals with kinetic movements; the forms move in actual space with the application of electrical engineering. Adding electricity with the aid of sensors endow the paintings with a new dimension. The electricity brings the forms to life. This new evolution allows physical interaction with his paintings in a temporal space, leaving an enduring experience in the mind of the viewers.
Saint Val’s oeuvre confronts a dark subject matter that is inherent in human history but his compositions turn this tenebrous topic into a candid and extraordinary display. Each painting retains a surreal like stage where the grand imaginative object of melanin is set in motion and juxtaposed against an inspired Neo-Classical landscape and having the sun as the energy source. Overall the compositions are a feast for the eyes due to Saint-Val’s painterly technique. The paintings possess substantial texture due to the application of various hues of paint as well as a blend of materials such as flour, sugar, oatmeal, shoe polish, chocolate, coffee and other substances that displays the paintings own personal skin.
Due to the investigation of melanin with the use of science, history, and art, Saint-Val illuminates an erroneous history and creates a new contemporary narrative that dispels an old mythology that supported the idea of race. The vibrant and surreal like paintings have a stunning effect on the senses and serve as a new visual history which is reflective rather than obvious. Saint-Val’s compositions exude a poetic reality but most importantly the works produce social awareness, a rousing of intellectual curiosity with a personal touch.
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