The first still life Salvo made appeared in a photograph from 1973, Autoritratto con natura morta (dal ritratto del Dott. Gachet), a tableau vivant in which Salvo, in the half shadow, enacts the famous portrait of van Gogh. In the foreground we see a pile of fruit. In another work that year, the self portrait disappears and the fruit remains alone, anticipating the still lifes that he would create later.
1973 was also the year of transition, when Salvo chose painting as his medium of choice.
In the late 1970s, the subjects of his first painted still lifes were flowers and books, and in the following years these were accompanied by vases, jugs, shells and various everyday objects, through to the as yet unexhibited skulls of 2015.
Even though they are a lesser known aspect of his painting, still lifes were by no means a minor genre for Salvo. In his painting, there is no great difference between trees that stand out against the sky and objects that emerge from the background of a coloured wall. In both cases there is a horizon line, which may be a lawn or the edge of a table, that separates the planes of what are purely pictorial elements in his paintings.
Salvo’s still lifes allude to the passage of time, and in many cases they take their titles from the months or seasons. But above all they allude to the passing of personal time, with its little daily habits. The time of breakfast, of vegetables put down in the kitchen, of piled up books.
He preferred the English term “still life” to the Italian equivalent, natura morta, literally “dead nature” and, even more, de Chirico’s term: “silent life”. It is indeed a silent life that we sense in these works, a freeze frame of a time in which the universal and the particular come together, transforming simple objects into domestic mythologies.