Posted 16 June 2011, by Raynald C. Rivera, The Peninsula, thepeninsulaqatar.com
DOHA: “Artists, famous or not, are equal because they all have heart for art,” a memorable and humble remark from renowned Spanish painter Alfredo Palmero which perhaps shows why he is so famous.
Palmero is the portrait painter of King Juan Carlos I of Spain and other European monarchies and a most-sought after painter in Spain and in many other countries. Despite all his accomplishments, he remains humble.
“What makes a painter famous is foremost the people because they are the ones who understand and appreciate a painter’s work. But for me, the secret to fame is humility. Also important is an authentic relationship with people,” he said.
Palmero is in Doha showcasing 20 of his paintings revolving around two of his favourite subjects: horses and meninas (young maids in waiting).
This is the first time the accalimed painter visited the Middle East to display his work. Palmero is impressed by Doha, especially with its contemporary architecture that defines the architectural landscape of the city.
“It’s very different and impressive. There’s a contrast between climate and the contemporary city.”
Titled ‘Entre el humano y lo animal’ (between human and animal), the 10-day exhibition which ends tomorrow features 14 paintings of horses and six meninas (young maids in waiting), inspired by famous 17th century Diego Velasquez painting
Alfredo Palmero is the third generation of a line of artists that began with his grandfather, Maestro Palmero, with whom he shared his name and a great love of painting. He has a permanent exhibition at the Museum of Barcelona which for him tells the story of his family’s generations of hard work.
“My fascination for horses began when I was very young as I was inspired by my grandfather’s paintings. It is part of family tradition. Beside the fact that horses are important to people around the world, they are also a powerful symbol of purity, freedom and beauty.”
Asked what particular subject he would paint on Qatar, he said it would be mainly horses because they are also an important and favourite subject in the region.
“But I have to know Doha better before I can delve into other subjects that I could paint.”
Though they were inspired by Velasquez, Palmero’s meninas are unique in themselves as they are given a unique character by the artist with a fusion of classical and contemporary styles and their figurative nature.
Diego Velasquez’s 1656 painting ‘Las Meninas’ is very popular and one of the most analysed in western painting for its complexity raising questions about reality and illusion, and creating an uncertain relationship between the viewer and the figures depicted.
“A lot of old artists admire this subject. I did some copies of this when I was young just to learn how to do it. But as I matured as an artist I still kept the theme of las meninas but transformed it into something different.”
For Palmero, his meninas paintings assume duality as both a symbol of Mother Earth and the human mother, yet there is a oneness as they also represent man’s unity with nature. Unlike in the original Velaquez painting which depicts 11 people, Palmero focuses on one lady to figuratively create a potent symbol of a mother’s power to nurture.
Though they differ in colours and form, all the meninas paintings have common characteristics and assume a unified archetypal symbolism.
“The lady doesn’t exist. She comes only from my imagination. The painting is divided into two parts, the lower part represents Mother Earth while the upper part is the human mother. So, there are two mothers — the human one and the Earth. The human one is the daughter of Mother Earth. She comes from the Earth. The idea is to show that human beings and the Earth are one,” he explained.
People may find it unusual to find artists fusing classical and contemporary techniques in one work but for Palmero it works as it serves as a link to communicate the message of the paintings.
“The lady is classical technique. The other half is abstract and contemporary. If you separate them, you get two different paintings. Usually you don’t mix two different paintings, but in this case it’s different and I like it because it is linked in a way. It is a symbol.”
Classicism and the contemporary form a bipolar work, which the artist handles with naturalness and where his personal vision of painting is sought in many countries around the world such as Hong Kong, the UK, Belgium and the US.
He said artists are important in today’s world because they are part of cultural and artistic movement in every country but equally important is the support of the government for culture and the arts.
“The most developed countries invest more on culture and arts.”