Cuban Painter Tomas Sanchez: A Necessary Art

Verónica Vega

Tomas Sanchez

HAVANA TIMES — A series of works by émigré Cuban painter Tomas Sanchez are currently on display at the third floor of Havana’s National Fine Arts Museum as part of the 12th Havana Arts Biennale.

Stepping into the enormous building means trading the din of dirty Old Havana (immersed in noisy repair work) for a strange peace that is pierced only by occasional murmurs and the echo of steps, but the silence in this exhibition space appears inevitable, coextensive with the works on display.

The large paintings hung side by side on the walls expose viewers to an unknown dimension and become a part of their own space, or, rather, afford them an indescribable promise of infinity.

This is the white that opens our eyes to the virtual alternative of becoming one with the ocean of consciousness and light referred to by philosophies I have dabbled in, such as Vedanta. This is the white that appears in the form of mist, to reflect our relationship with the intangible.

Isolated. By Tomas Sanchez.

It is the white that sparks among the innumerable objects created by human kind, in violent contrast to nature.

In the modern world, where progress has accelerated the pace of thinking to pathological levels, the gaze of this artist forces us to make a stop. There, in the symbolic void that has no need of the hackneyed tricks of modern art (such as abrasiveness, vulgarity or cynicism), the artist frames landscapes (real, imaginary?) of overwhelming beauty, overflowing with waste that threatens to bury the planet.

Even the crucified Christ appears over a sea of waste, symbolizing the life of the body, the soul and consciousness.

A man crucified on a garbage dump. By Tomas Sanchez

Under Sanchez’ brush, even garbage (be it material or moral) appears to palpitate with an anomalous form of beauty. “I feel as though the paintings pull me in, absorb me,” a friend said to me as we left the gallery.

I think of Van Gogh, who could strike the canvas and capture ugliness or tedium, the uncertainty and the pain that is expressed even by a simple chair. Tomas Sanchez demonstrates how space and beauty can also be a blow that also shakes off the many masks of indifference we wear.

Sanchez told me he would return to Cuba again this September. I offer him an early welcome to what is still his homeland, and I hope a permanent bridge to this art that the world and Cubans dearly need, is soon built.