Fascination with vivid colour and a love of paint itself are hallmarks of the contemporary Spanish artist Pedro Paricio. In bright and dynamic canvases, he sets out to solve conceptual problems, to incorporate street culture into fine art, to pay homage to great artistic figures of the past and to examine and question the role of the artist. His subjects range from contemporary science to Hispanic folklore and from music to philosophy.
Paricio was born on 16 January 1982 on Tenerife in the Canary Islands. As a child, he was always drawing, but at high school he studied science and only began to contemplate a future in the arts a few months before going to college. ‘To be honest, the thing that attracted me was the freedom that society gives to the artist’, he explains. ‘I chose art because I wanted a different life’. Yet, with the benefit of hindsight, he now feels that the chain of events that led him into art was a process of discovering his fate, his destiny.
Paricio enrolled at the Faculty of Fine Arts of the University of La Laguna, Tenerife, moving on to a course in Salamanca and completing his training with a degree in Fine Arts at the University of Barcelona (2004–2006). While at college, he considered a career as an art critic-cum-curator; such essays as Unfinished Articles I and II convey a lucid intelligence that enables him to reflect, for example, on the tyrannical relationship between artistic theory and practice. Paricio was focusing mostly on sculpture, installation and video art at the time of his first group show in Barcelona, Don’t Call it Performance (2004), but shortly afterwards decided to make painting his sole medium; he considers the latent possibilities of painting to be infinite and dismisses the idea of using other media or technology in response to fleeting fads in art.
Paricio’s first one-man exhibition was held in 2006 at the Espacio Joven in Salamanca. Supporting himself as an artist by taking a range of jobs, including art editing, curating, assisting photographers, clowning at children’s parties and game-keeping, he started work in 2006 on a series of paintings titled The Canary Paradise. He described his approach as ‘abstract street/Pop Art’, providing ‘freedom from the structure of the mind and the computerized world’. In the cycle he integrates Clement Greenberg’s theories of Modernism with urban art, appropriating diverse cultural references; for instance, to Jack Kerouac’s novel The Dharma Bums (1958), to Dutch and Spanish football stars, and to films, including The Miracle of Candeal (2004). Appropriately, the series was exhibited at Ikara, a Barcelona skateboard shop, in 2008, the year he started painting full time.
Paricio’s series begun in 2008 – small mixed media drawings under the title of Tributes and acrylic on canvas Destructures – continued his abstract reflections on the cultural environment of that decade, from The Sopranos on television to Large Hadron Collider at the forefront of scientific discovery. In two series from 2009, Digital Painting and After Francis Bacon, Paricio used an unusual mix of hard-lined, flat geometric and amorphous shapes in primary and jewel colours alongside swathes of thick, spattered paint on canvases that were gradually edging towards the figurative. Works on paper made in 2010 include a sequence of traditional ritual masks from the Canary Islands which clearly depart from his abstract renderings of Sideshow Characters.
Since the series Dialogues (2010), Paricio has been self-reflective, meditating in paint on himself as artist and paying tribute to his predecessors. The 18 works in Master Painters (2011) give personal re-readings of famous paintings, sometimes subtly, but generally with wit or irony: thus Canarian Gothic references Grant Wood’s American Gothic; Flowers for a Martyr reworks Vincent van Gogh’s iconic sunflowers; and Pedro (Naked at Stairs) harks back both to Gerhard Richter’s Ema (Nude on a Staircase) of 1966 and beyond it to Marcel Duchamp’s fragmented Nude Descending a Staircase (No. 2) of 1912. Borrowing and adapting imagery from the past, Paricio fuses it with his own visual language of blanked-out faces, Stetson hats and harlequin colours, introducing layers of meaning and playing with the identity of subject and artist. He persists with the theme in Diary of an Artist and Other Stories(2011–2012) and again, on a more intimate scale, in Magic Charms(2012), which fetishizes his painter’s tools and other attributes against a particularly bright version of the harlequin geometry.
Paricio currently divides his time between Tenerife and London. His paintings are held in many private collections around the world, and he enjoys an international reputation following exhibitions throughout Europe and the United States. The Master Painters show at Halcyon Gallery, London, in 2011 made an impact on the international art scene, and in 2012 The Theatre of Painting, his solo museum exhibition in Spain, was staged at the Institute of Culture and Arts of Seville. In early 2013, he took part in the Gabinete de Curiosidades, a mixed exhibition of works by modern and contemporary artists at the Plataforma Arte Contemporáneo (PAC), Madrid, and the Art Madrid Maestros Art Fair in Madrid. Paricio was honoured to be selected for inclusion in Francesca Gavin’s book 100 New Artists (2011), representing an innovative generation that is forming the aesthetics of the coming decade.
In 2014 Halcyon Gallery, London exhibited Shaman, a body of work in which Paricio explored the ancient shamanistic traditions of his home in Tenerife in the Canary Islands. This was followed in October by Elogio de la Pintura, a show created specifically by the artist for an exhibition at TEA Tenerife Espacio de las Artes, a dynamic art museum designed by Herzog and de Meuron that holds the world’s most important collection of works by the Surrealist painter Oscar Dominguez. In September 2016, Paricio follows this monumental exhibition with Dreams, his fourth major solo show, proudly presented by Halcyon Gallery. In 2017, Paricio was selected for a group exhibition entitled Clouded Lands at the Fundación Caja Burgo (CAB), the Spanish museum is also proud to have acquired a work by the artist for their permanent collection of contemporary art.
Paricio has an all-embracing view of painting which crosses the boundaries between the abstract and figurative, the object and narrative. He explores ways in which artwork can become transcendental, uninfluenced by the fashions and temporary satisfactions of the present. In attempting to realise the eternal components of art historical masterpieces, Paricio ignores space and time, the artist thinks in the past, present and future all at once. ‘A work of art is not only today, it is simultaneously yesterday and tomorrow’.