Pedro Cano: "I evoke human drama, but also generosity."

The Spanish painter Pedro Cano reflects like few others pain and suffering (Aleppo, Kiev, Morocco, ordinary life), and migration, but also human overcoming and solidarity. The artist from Murcia, who has a special Italian touch, has been decorated in 2022 with the Gold Medal for Merit in the Fine Arts, and now exhibits in Madrid.

Francisco Otamendi-October 7, 2023-Reading time: 4 minutes

Pedro Cano ©José Luis Montero

Pedro Cano (Blanca, Murcia, 1944), could be called an expert in humanity. Because perhaps he sees where others do not see, and we need the art. Now, this universal painter has inaugurated the exhibition "Seven".which can be visited until October 22nd at the Casa de Vacas Cultural Centerlocated in Madrid's El Retiro Park. 

At the same time, the painter and academic Cano, who is waiting to receive from the King and Queen of Spain the Gold Medal for Merit in Fine Artswill return to Rome in November with an exhibition on Greek and Roman theaters, and will also participate "in a huge thing" that is going to be done on Calvino, the writer. He really doesn't stop. 

Of his numerous exhibitions, we can highlight those of the Escuderías del Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, the Baths of Diocletian, the Markets of Trajan and the Giulia Gallery in Rome, the Royal Palace of Naples, the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki, the Stelline Foundation in Milan, the Veronicas Hall in Murcia and the Casa de la Panaderia in Madrid. He is also a full member of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of Santa Maria de la Arrixaca, or member of the Pontifical Academy of Fine Arts and Letters of the Virtuosi in the Pantheon. 

The Casa de Vacas collection includes seven triptychs in black and white (composed, in turn, of 21 oil paintings on panel), as well as drawings and material from the artist's studio.

"Seven" is the result of improvised annotations in small notes written or drawn by Pedro Cano over many years, which ended up becoming a complete pictorial cycle around major themes of the human being. The conversation with Pedro Cano takes place at the exhibition in Madrid's Retiro.

His painting catches, it has a heartbreaking tinge.

-Suffering, injustice, pain, the need to abandon one's homeland and family in search of a better future..., are such heartbreaking realities that have always shaken me and I have tried to capture them in my works as a call for human awareness and solidarity. But I not only try to evoke the drama, but also the spirit of self-improvement and generosity that is characteristic of human beings in the face of great problems. I like to express that optimism, that hope that returns and revives when contemplating that life always makes its way.

What happened in Bari?

-In 1991 I was particularly shocked by the arrival, in inhuman conditions, of more than ten thousand Albanian migrants in the Italian port of Bari. That desperate and dramatic situation made such an impression on me that it inspired some notes and sketches that, some time later, I captured in the works that today make up this exhibition. 

This is material from 30 years ago. I, from newspapers and television 30-odd years ago, made these drawings, I liked to put them. Because there is one, here at the beginning, that even has a newspaper pasted on it. It's a very raw story, because they had never seen so many people like that before, and they didn't know what to do with them. They put them in a soccer stadium, and they helped each other.

This Madrid collection has a message. 

-The exhibition seems to have been made on purpose at this moment, because of the situation the world is going through, where, in addition to wars, there are volcanoes exploding, tsunamis coming, earthquakes... But many of these drawings are from six years ago.

In any case, the proposal from here, from Casa de Vacas, first by the director, Lola Chamero, seemed to me to be very important, and from Murcia, the autonomous community, because last year they asked for the Gold Medal for Merit in Fine Arts, wanted to make an exhibition. We took advantage of the two things, and a beautiful catalog has been published, now, ex profeso, the day before yesterday they brought it.

The human person, migration, its suffering, are essential for you...

-I think that the exhibition, besides all the pain there is, all the anguish, is...; things like the bicycles, for example, or those interiors with the female figures, speak of many more things, of what is the memory of the human being, how dramatic things can stay in your head, more beautiful things, and that you have them there; I take them out to be able to paint, to go on, because I like to have the human component, it is very important for me that the figures, in any way, appear.

Look, for example, at that small job, which is like an eviction, the people who have all that house on the street, and they are sleeping, they are waiting, not knowing what can happen from one day to the next. 

Is war in the background of your paintings?

-I am going to tell you a curious thing about the latest work. Because here there are things that belong to Aleppo (Syria), to Ukraine... But the curious thing is the background. The base is a photo I found of World War I, of Kiev, to make people think, to make people think that something that happened a hundred years ago is happening again. 

There is a triptych of paintings that stands out above the others, in your opinion. What do you want to tell us?

-A person who is helping another. This is essential. Other lives carry human burdens, solidarity and heroism that day by day are repeated in places that until recently were scenes of daily life and balance. Imagine now the people of Morocco, for example. We have seen this these days, and this picture is seven years old.

In oil, right?

-It is oil, but sometimes with sand or pigment, so that it has a little more body. Waiting, Play, Interior, Jumping, Carrying, Bicycles and Work are the names of the seven triptychs that make up this exhibition. 

You reflect the attitude of waiting..., it is hard, and usual.

-People are waiting to get to a better world. No one leaves home for pleasure. The people who come here are harassed by hunger, by difficulties, by having to live. I put it on purpose.

We finish with the Vatican Museums. That embrace...

-The painting about John Paul II and Cardinal Wizinsky that is in the Vatican Museum came about because at that time I was painting hugs, and I thought it could work very well with this story, which happened truthfully. It is in front of two Dalí's, and in front of it there is a very nice sculpture by Chillida. Very good company".

The authorFrancisco Otamendi

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