Samir Salahov, an interdisciplinary multi-media artist from Baku, works across video installation, painting, graphics and street art. He trained as an architect at the Azerbaijan University of Architecture & Construction and continues to work as an architect in parallel with his art practice. He has participated in exhibitions in Azerbaijan, Georgia and Russia, as well as projects with Yarat and ARTIM, and he completed a residency at the prestigious Maraya Art Centre in Sharjah, UAE in 2015. He is inspired by Azerbaijani heritage and the city of Baku, examining the everyday lives and the social patterns of ordinary people through his art. His work often deals with Azerbaijani culture in an ironic and humorous way, expressed through human and animal characters rendered in his iconic style of strong graphic lines, bold colors and exaggerated features to portray their personalities.
While he has exhibited in many group exhibitions, in 2016 he presented his ambitious solo exhibition “Artist Between the Nails” at the Center for Contemporary Art in Baku. Conceptually, the exhibition was a combination of pop anthropology and a conceptual exploration of culture and identity. The project was the culmination of intensive research and performance, in which Samir channeled the life of the fictional artist inspired by the famous Absheron school of painting, complete with a unique style and narrative to accompany the biography of the artist. Samir’s artist character painted with his elongated pinkie nail, a common affectation of Azerbaijani machismo street fashion, which provided an interesting juxtaposition between high and low culture. He explored the mythology of the long nail, eventually writing his own narrative of the style to include proverbs and the story of The Long Nail Club, a fictitious online group of which the artist was a member, that keeps the tradition of the long nail alive. The exhibition included paintings by Samir in the style of the artist as well as the historical story of the long nail as a cultural emblem, finishing in a performance where visitors could have a manicured extension applied to the nail their small finger at the opening of the exhibition should they wish to adopt this identity for a short time.
Known by the tag Ssmoothest, Samir’s street art is visible at Barista & Chef and Le Chateau Music Bar, as well as around the city on various neighborhood walls. For the 2018 Formula One race, he was commissioned to create a large wall painting of all of the drivers inspired by Azerbaijani culture which was featured in Bulvar Park. Recently, he was invited to paint his 5-story mural called ‘Prairie Dream’ as part of Urban Fest Astana 2018 in Astana, Kazakhstan, which was completed in July and is on display now. Also in 2018, Samir launched GayBat Films, which showcases his graphic characters as animations. Using this new medium, Samir’s characters come to life to critique the society in which they live. Available on Facebook and YouTube, the films look at gender and culture with humor and irony. His animated work marks an evolution of his art practice and provides a larger platform for the exploration of the people and themes he engages in his work, which promises to further deepen his insightful and engaging take on Azerbaijani life.