Hello Tomas, it is a sincere pleasure to sit down with you and have this interview. Your work exists as a critical commentary about our time, but it seems that your honesty is not something newly arising because your work stretches across many decades. Can you please tell our readers about the motivations existing behind your diverse body of work?
It is a pleasure to be able to talk with you too. I don’t know if my work exists as a critical comment on the world around us, I think that is one of its ways, an unfailing one when it has been tried for decades to maintain honesty in it, as you say. And that honesty comes precisely from two fundamental motivations. The first is that critical line, a wake-up call to the problems of nature’s pollution, of waste products generated by excessive consumerism. The second is more an idealization of nature, a cult to it that derives from my experience in meditation, because in meditation I have experienced being part of a whole and that nothing exists apart from us.
You create in different styles, what does each unique manifestation bring with it that helps you communicate your ideas that another cannot?
I don’t think I have different styles. I think artists have “a style” and what differs are the themes of that work. How we approach one topic or another requires different characteristics. It is something inherent to artistic production. Every artist knows how to choose how they can approach a specific subject.
In your expressionistic style, I detect references to Grosz, Bacon, Kirchner, and Kahlo, but yours is entirely individual as it is different. Why do you think you have chosen the characters and shapes that you have in your images? Also, do you think your inner sentiments could be somehow related to those of other artists that came before you who share aesthetic similarities?
I do not consider my expressionist work a style, I consider it a stage in my work. A first stage in which, of course, I have the influence of many artists. First of all, from my teacher, the Cuban artist, Antonia Eiriz, recognized for her biting and critical expressionism, a work that is indebted to Goya, with whom I also feel and always felt connected. Also, the most expressionist work of the Cuban artist Servando Cabrera Moreno influenced my work.
Now, I think that at that stage the influence that struck me was that of James Ensor. “Christ’s Entry Into Brussels (1889)” is a specific work where I see some of my circuses, where I see a lot of the popular religiosity that permeates my work from the ’70s. When I did that work so lively, so full of nuances, with such a deep and contradictory human energy, somehow I was posing a certain contemporary regionalism with the energy, religiosity, and even the sexuality of Cuba. But if I want to relate to those artists you mention, I prefer to speak of similarities of an aesthetic body, to similarities in feelings.
Your images of Landfills are juxtaposed by your paintings or illustrations of Landscapes, what do these two opposites say about the world we live in today, especially in how you can make both beautiful and full of contemplative significance?
Landfills and landscapes are the work themes that still persist. They contradict and complement each other. Both of them are finally directed towards the same place: nature and what I feel about it. Landscapes in a more contemplative, idyllic, and spiritual way; and landfills in a more strident, forceful, and brutal way. I cannot separate them because they coexist even in meditation. Landfills are the incomplete mind, the mind with deficiencies that tries to fill itself with things, with excesses, and the landscapes are somehow calm states, states of reflection.
What is your feeling about global culture and its relationship to a notion of progress that has led to the world becoming damaged or taken for granted? What forces do you feel are most responsible for our current condition, and how can we collectively make a meaningful pivot through art?
I don’t believe art alone is capable of changing things. I think it is an instrument of warning, a way of looking at what is happening in the world. That’s all art can do. We cannot behave naively believing that art saves the world, but we can say that it saves some human beings and that is good. I think it is in its capacity to touch certain fibers in human beings and change the way they perceive the world.
Regarding the forces that are destroying the world, it is a power struggle between progress, as you say, and nature survival. We cannot live without either one. The balance of those factors is what we have to pretend, as a mental change and a real change. That is why I always insist on the experience of meditation, ongoing inward because when you are connected with everything when you feel that you are part of a whole, it is much easier not to want to hurt it. It is my experience with nature.
How has your upbringing and world-renowned success shaped your perspective on life? In knowing about life from so many points of view, what unique knowledge can you share about how we should best live in the world today as it is?
My “upbringing and world-renowned success” is a strange term. I am a simple person, whose work has managed to draw attention to the things that interest me the most: art, meditation, and nature. Therein lies my joy. If there was a unique knowledge to transmit, it would be to find the space of meditation that connects you with everything. It is the most organic and consistent way I found to be in the world. To be connected with everything.
Do your works reflect your personality, if so why or why not? Every artist has a specific voice that seems inherent to their person, and with this in mind and how well you work in different forms, do you think it is ever possible to speak with a different voice or in a truly different way?
I don’t know if my work reflects my personality or not. I suppose that is something others must answer. My work tries to be deeply consistent with my principles. Each artist has a unique voice, each human being has it. And that’s the only way we should communicate with each other: with honesty. From that point of view, I can never speak like someone else.
Your pieces inspire awe and introspection. What would you like your viewers to think while they are contemplating one of your pieces?
I like human nature, its complexity is fascinating; so I would like my work to be viewed in every possible way, depending on the subject that looks at it. I would like my work to take its viewers one step further than aesthetic contemplation, to question them, to make them question themselves. But if I have to make a choice, the choice would be to take you on a journey inward, towards self-reflection. By doing that, I would be satisfied.
All images with courtesy of Tomas Sanchez