In the suburb of San Antonio de Escazú, this Cuban painter’s house looks a lot like one of his pictures. It was drawn, line by line, using the same technique used for his large format landscapes.
The greenery of the hills around San José and the views over a large part of the city have become local characters in themselves. Who would think that a house has become their workshop and exhibition hall?
As you might expect from a non-conformist genius, Tomás Sánchez ensures that the important details of the building are completed to his liking, and he supervises the construction personally.
The aim is that this little corner of San Antonio de Escazú will preserve the artistic work of this ever present 68 year old Cuban who has broken down international borders. Many people consider him to be one of the most important living Cuban painters. He is part of a generation of prolific artists including Zaida del Río, Roberto Fabelo, Nelson Domínguez and Pedro Pablo Oliva.
His work took on board the classic values of landscape painting while also carrying it towards the future. More and more people come to admire his pieces of art which are now displayed in tens of different countries.
In his home, where there is hardly even any space to relax, and everything is art, Tomás agreed to talk with Prensa Latina about his upcoming projects and how he was satisfied at having exhibited his work at the 13th edition of Havana Biennial in 2015.
“After the exhibition at the Havana Biennial, which was also in San José from September to November last year, I will take a break from museum exhibitions to finish some works which will be in a few expo-sales in the Marlborough Gallery in New York in the United States in May and November,” he says.
Although he worked with that gallery 20 years ago, for the last 12 years he has not set up a commercial exhibition with them. He has devoted himself to painting and experimenting without market pressure for these last 12 years and has increased the size of his collection so that he can have museum exhibitions.
He thinks that the Cuban-ness of his work is due to the fact that he is Cuban – born in Aguada de Pasajeros, Cienfuegos, on the 22nd of May 1948, but he does clarify that his pictures have a universal aspect to them: “You will always see the Royal palm in my landscapes, but now it has become a hybrid which could be from anywhere,” he explained.
He went on to say, “In my paintings, my impressions of the Cuban countryside are predominant, but they are enriched by what I have seen in other parts of Latin America. There is something of the Brazilian rainforest, Central America, the south of Mexico. There is always much more than just palm trees.”
The garbage dumps which have been present in his work since 1980 were also the reason for this conversation between Tomás and Prensa Latina, especially when it comes to him meeting the Cuban ambassador in Costa Rica, Danilo Sánchez, along with some of other diplomatic personnel of the island in Costa Rica.
The theme of the relationship between man and nature and that of the contamination of nature and meditation have been running parallel to one another, but now these ideas have been brought together, literally into the same picture.
“Now I don’t just paint a landscape and a garbage dump separately, I paint garbage dumps where there are landscapes and landscapes where there are garbage dumps. I am smashing the two themes together. That was present in the exhibition in Havana and the one here, and it will be even more so in this year’s exhibitions.”
The aim is to make people think, to reflect before talking about whether there is a state of harmony between nature and human beings or not, but at the same time to raise awareness that we must stop contaminating and destroying nature, because at the end of the day, when we destroy nature, we are destroying ourselves too.
“I compare these garbage dumps to, I would say that I am painting states of mind. Just as when I practice meditation, I link the peaceful natural landscape to a calm and harmonious state of mind.” (PL)
(Translated by Peter Savin)