Images throughout courtesy of the artist and the Halcyon Gallery. 'Pedro (naked at stairs)'.A couple of weeks back I had the good fortune of being invited along to Mayfair’s Halcyon Gallery for a private tour of their newest exhibition, Pedro Paricio: Master Painters. Upon arrival I was thrilled to learn that I would in fact be meeting the artist himself, however I was equally filled with trepidation on not having done my homework – which turned out to not be a problem at all as Pedro was incredibly charming and extremely forthcoming about his work, inspirations and practices that I instantly felt at ease and was truly honoured to be able to meet such a committed, passionate and playful artist. Comprised of 18 works created earlier this year, Pedro Paricio: Master Painters cleverly adapts and borrows the iconic imagery of his favourite artists and fuses it with his own visual language of masks and harlequin colours, introducing layers of meaning, and playing with the identity of subject and artist.
Born in 1982 Tenerife, Canary Islands, Pedro Paricio: Master Painters marks the artist’s first ever exhibition in London, having previously shown throughout Europe and in America. Currently living and working in the vibrant city of Barcelona, where he has had a studio since 2004, for Paricio, painting is the most important thing in life. A true artist’s artist, of his dedication to his craft Pedro told me, “art is my religion”; going on to discuss how he prefers to paint in private in his studio, and much like prayer, for him painting is a private and intimate experience, believing that: “an artist is a shaman - a human being who can expand the world”.
'The Big Painter'
“When I am happy, I go to see art. When I am sad, I go to see art. When I see a good painting, I am in a hurry to create a good painting too. Art gives sense to my life. I want to mix street art with traditional art to show the power of abstract art. I want to combine the ideas of Clement Greenberg with the style of Keith Haring. ... We are caught in a system and live together in a comfortable world where we want easy culture. But I want to think and develop my mind, to free it from its confines. I want to open the secret door.”
Described by the Halcyon Gallery as ‘a tour de force of kaleidoscopic colour’, in the Master Painters series, Paricio makes reference to particular paintings and characteristics of the work of several great artists he admires including Rothko, Basquiat, Miró, Velasquez, Caravaggio, Modigliani, Bacon and Hopper. With a clear passion for art history and theory, when asked why he loves these artists so much, I saw a wide smile break and a glint light up his face as many reasons were offered: they have for a long time been firm favourites, they are so inspiring and changed the way that art was perceived in their respective generations, pushing the boundaries and developing the market.
Paricio himself refers to his work in terms of organic and synthetic abstraction, in which there is currently a strong, renewed interest. There is something uniquely Spanish in the raw quality and sense of mystery in his paintings, with his most recent preoccupation being with the issue of identity. The artist‘s love of paint and fascination with colour is evident in this exhibition, where bright primary colours dominate and sharp geometric shapes form a narrative to the series. Currently working exclusively with acrylics, only such a skilled painter could make the materials appear different using a combination of different numbers of layers and canvas thicknesses to experiment with the finishes, tirelessly exploring different techniques, whilst dismissing the thought of using other media or technology in response to current fashions in art, stating that painting provides him with endless possibilities.
Slightly eccentric in the best possible way, as every lover of art would like the creator to be of his reasons for being an artist, Paricio says: “...to be honest, the thing that attracts me [to art] is the freedom that society gives to the artist. When you are an artist, society lets you do things that, if it weren’t for the art, you would be considered crazy. I chose art because I wanted a different life.”
In many ways Pedro Paricio: Master Painters is an auto-biographical body of work as not only does it reference some of the artist’s favourite works with personal significance, but interestingly his own trademark fashion aesthetic is very apparent in several of the paintings (such as Primary Colours, The Big Painter, Times Change But Painters Don’t, and all of his inspired self-portraits) with his figures wearing white shirts, skinny black ties and a black felt bowler hat, a vision that – after meeting the artist in the same signature attire – is not only a testament but an embodiment of his love of tradition and the enthusiasm of his dedication.
Juan Manuel Bonet, art critic and former director of Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid, has described Paricio’s work as “…the freshest thing I’ve seen in the emerging contemporary art world in 30 years”. Tomas Paredes, President of the Madrid Association of Art Critics, foresees a bright future for Paricio: “Be sure that here we have a true phenomenon – a tornado – you can feel it, you can smell it, you can see it – if you miss it, you’ll regret it”.Pedro Paricio: Master Painters is showing at the Halcyon Gallery until 17th June.