Adrián Pellegrini (Havana, 1979) confesses that he is “a person who is inspired by the spirit of the Renaissance.” That was something that the great Cuban composer Harold Gramatges noted, when he wrote: “Nothing stops him in his poetic flight.”
Pellegrini has an impressive curriculum vitae. He has attained international prestige, first with his painting, but also as a writer, with several volumes of fiction, poetry, and research.
Critics consider his work to be a revolution in the field of abstraction, given the novelty of his concepts and the way that he merges musical codes with color theory. At present, his paintings are valued highly on the international market and are represented by Sotheby’s in New York. He is not interested in that fame. “I’m not looking for popularity or fuss; I’m not interested in groups, I’ve never needed them. I prefer a certain amount of anonymity. I like the sheltering shadows that protect you from unnecessary light, and it is something like a germination period.”
A lot of energy and passion are reflected in his work, and were part of the dialogue that took place for this magazine, as was the humbleness of one of the true greats.
Let’s try to give our readers a few clues for a better understanding of your work. Family, childhood, studies?
I grew up in the home of two classical musicians. My mother was a cellist, and my father, a classic guitarist. So music undeniably had a major influence on my work; it is so visible that some people say that my artwork rings. I’ve been painting practically since I was two or three years old, drawing incessantly. Travel also influenced my formation and left their mark; you take in a whole energy, the living and the dead of each place. I would say that the largest influence on me is that of music and the cities, museums, and paintings that I carry inside and that have marked my life.
What is art for you? Do you think that art in and of itself pursues an objective? If so, what are yours?
For me, art is everything. It is the art of living, of the music you listen to, the culture in which you move, the art of culinary traditions. Art is even the way that social disputes are settled. Art, the objective that it pursues, is to beautify reality esthetically and ethically; to reconstruct it, recuperate what is lost, to put the future before you in an ideal way. My personal objectives with art? I don’t know if I’m pursuing an objective. I’m a religious person; I think that we religious people live intensely, believe profoundly, and act consequentially. My objective is basically that of knowledge, and I seek it through art.
Do you believe in inspiration?
Inspiration exists, but undeniably you have to be prepared for it to come to you, to see it, to identify it, to smell it, because sometimes it happens and people are not ready to perceive that inspiration has come to them. More than anything, it requires a real state of lucidity.
Abstract painting is sometimes difficult for spectators. How do you view communication with your art?
I think that in the world today there is a lot of superficiality with abstract painting. My painting can be considered within expressionist abstraction, but it has a communication aspect. Human beings are touched by beauty, and when there is beauty in a work, esthetic beauty, harmony of forms and composition, that is attractive, because human beings are esthetic beings, they have it in their seed. I don’t see it being difficult for spectators to relate to, because they generally appreciate the beauty, durability, and texture of my work, and that profoundly satisfies me, and I think it fulfills its role.
You use diverse techniques, multiple materials.
Why? A need for other textures, dimensions, other expressions?
Basically I’m a painter who uses the traditional oil technique, because I very much appreciate the beauty, transparency, and fluidness of the material and the history that it has; the shine, and certain conditions of opacity that oil permits in a very special way. I think that I am a person who is inspired by the spirit of the Renaissance, and that spirit lives and will live in me. The variety of material allows some flexibility. Glass has some of that transparent purity, that fragility that incites you to protect. Glass has its own quality; cloth has another; paper comes from trees, and all of its invites you to enter and try to modify it. Man’s life is a constant struggle against material to draw out its best form.
Preferred colors and tones?
I have a great predilection for all blue bases, especially pale blue, which has some grey. I like iridescent tones. I work with colors from natural pigments, ground and packaged, but natural, like the way they used to paint before. They are not chemical, synthetic substitutes. That produces a brilliance, a quality of texture and color, a lasting quality, which is what I love in paintings, in the paintings that I have enjoyed and that I try to make myself. I prefer those tones. I even like dark colors mixed with golden colors, with pale pink, but with a certain foggy nuance, a certain nuance of exaltation. Bright, but balanced, contrasted, tonal. I look for harmony; in no way am I looking for a mess in colors. For me, colors have to convey to me my intention, reflection, magic, and a certain mystery that is silent but at the same time lively. An equilibrium that is difficult to achieve.
Do you meditate on what you’re going to do, or is it an impulse?
I’m inspired by the present moment; I listen to music, which is an invaluable support, and the forms begin to emerge. Sometimes during certain periods when I am inspired by a certain architecture, a city, an experience, a beautiful woman, I might work on a series with a certain general theme, but the individual work comes about in the moment, as time goes by. I don’t work with a plan.
When his exhibition Epopeya de Gilgamesh (Gilgamesh’s Epic) opened in the Palacio de Lombillo art gallery in Havana’s historic district, Pablo Armando Fernández, winner of the National Literature Prize, was inspired for a poem that he titled “Against the adversaries.” One of its verses says: “The white of the tapestry in all of its magnitude / is a challenge to Light, between limits, anchored.”
It is truly a challenge to try to comprehend the splendid work of Adrián Pellegrini in just a few pages.