Relentlessly introspective and inquisitive, John Santos utilizes art to challenge ideologies and assumptions, incorporating a slew of symbolic imagery to form a single composition and rendering it in the evocative surrealism typical in his oeuvre. Here he delivers a thought-provoking exploration of identity, with a group of vague figures serving as the scene’s focus: a bystander, a masked man, a classical sculpture, and a faceless runaway – brought together yet seemingly disconnected from one another – on an expanse of blue, the entirety overlain with the worn quality of an old photograph. In this, Santos merges past and present as well as local and foreign themes, effectively skewing senses of time and place, erasing the external to give emphasis to the internal.
The painting was inspired by the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004 wherein people from all areas congregated to help survivors. Santos said of the work, “While there is also a bystander doing nothing, he still looks like he’s been affected by what is happening... Everybody is looking in the same direction, whether they are helping or not.”