Emilio Lamo de Espinoza Vázquez de Sola

Sociologist, publicist, and Spanish emeritus professor

Some time ago, in the studio of a young Venezuelan painter residing in Madrid, I had the privilege of seeing him paint a large canvas with mastery. Sitting in mysterious silence, I watched as the creator of images and sensations took pure oil paint between his fingers to apply it with gentle and subtle movements to the linen, the organic support of his material universe. What initially seemed to be a simple painting lesson, where the master imparts knowledge to an inexperienced pupil, which the pupil will presumably forget with indifference in a few days, was transformed into an exercise of intimate symbiosis between man and painting, between father and son, reaching the climax of intimate identity. What used to be nothing more than linen, wooden stretcher transubstantiated, plaster, oil, and various materials now manifested itself as flesh, sensuality, eroticism, visceral intensity, and voluptuousness – magnificent portals to the epicurean reality that shines through the sensitive fibers stitching our souls. The emotional impulse of the artist accelerated, rushing against the linen with the same violence as waves crashing against cliffs, shaping the rock, revealing the traces of its watery power, which will endure on its stone skin until the end of time. The interpreter, in his conscious madness, now transformed matter into spirals of color resembling skeins of wool, initially ethereal but gradually gaining overwhelming weight. Pedro turned around and, giving me an enigmatic smile, said, "I did it!" as he left the room, which, if possible, was even more illuminated than it had ever been, thanks to that distorted, biomorphic yet profoundly human image projected by the painter's conscious grimace – the Cheshire smile.

If I mention the Cheshire Cat, you might have doubts about the identity of this feline. However, if I accompany the explanation with a proper name, that of Lewis Carroll, dreamer of a wonderland and literary father of a young girl named Alice, you won't take long to place the sarcastic cat on a comfortable branch, engaging in a momentous conversation with the traveling girl. Do you remember it?

Cheshire Puss, would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here? asked Alice.

That depends a good deal on where you want to get to, said the Cat.

I don't much care where, replied Alice.

Then it doesn't matter which way you go, said the Cat. You'll be sure to get somewhere if you walk long enough.

Something similar happens with the artistic process, as Willem de Kooning, one of the fathers of American Abstract Expressionism, declared in a profound interview with the critic Harold Rosenberg in the early 1970s. He stated that his work was like the smile of the Cheshire Cat, which remains when the cat has disappeared.

In Pedro Sandoval, this resemblance to the statement of the great master of Contemporary Art is a significant aspect of his work. In Sandoval's paintings, there are no clear traces that allow one to easily decipher the piece. Moreover, the eclecticism of the Venezuelan master is one of the distinctive features of his career, an unfathomable characteristic of his artistic being that makes it impossible to state definitively who the colleagues are that have influenced him throughout the centuries and which objects and experiences have propelled him toward a unique language, a coveted quality that every creator, no matter how humble, desires.

Based on these initial premises, Pedro Sandoval has traditionally been defined as a neo-abstract expressionist painter, as most critics recognize. However, this classification needs to be nuanced in the light of his recent works and exhibitions, in which an unbridled desire to delve into abstraction emerges, following the path of action painting, the style of Jackson Pollock, in search of an even more personal form of expression. He uses new materials and techniques, reviving those that seemed lost, such as beeswax, while simultaneously infusing a revolution into traditional figurative painting. This transformation doesn't aim to eliminate but rather to adapt and evolve. This aligns with the concept that "matter cannot be created or destroyed; it can only be transformed," which gives its name to this exhibition. Without abandoning the basic elements of his pictorial universe, such as intensely textured surfaces and skillful manipulation of chromatic induction, which allows him to create art in the manner of primitive humans, with his own hands shaping a profoundly material yet malleable world. Therefore, Pedro Sandoval, until a better definition is available, should be placed within the realm of figurative neo-abstract expressionism.

The paintings in this catalog and on display at the exquisite Fruela gallery are the result of many months of work and years of research. Sandoval has meticulously studied the works of renowned artists like Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning, as well as other American Abstract Expressionists such as Cy Twombly, Ad Reinhardt, Barnett Newman, Mark Rothko, Bradley Walker Tomlin, and even Robert Motherwell, not to mention Franz Kline.

The influences of German Neo-Expressionism are also evident in this exhibition. On one hand, in the modernity of Sandoval's master during his years of study in Switzerland, Georg Baselitz, who was an endless source of inspiration, as well as Gerhard Richter. They share values of artistic freedom and the use of photography as a means of expression, as evident in Sandoval's extraordinary abstract diptych titled "Japanese Red Landscape." This work stands as one of the artist's most personal, distancing itself from the strong influence that Clyfford Still had projected in previous works, such as "Turner as a Pretext" or "Landscape Number III," featured in his catalog "Painting & Painting," dating back to 2005. In this piece, the artist returns to his passion for vibrant brushwork and surrealist automatic writing, even incorporating informal writing as a descriptive element, previously used by artists like Joan Miró, Paul Klee, A.R. Penck, and Bradley Walter Tomlin, among others. These lines also cannot overlook the great masters of the 16th century, as the exhibition includes a significant reinterpretation of the work of the Milanese genius Giuseppe Arcimboldo, who, in works like "The Librarian" or "The Roast," anticipated the Surrealist movement by several centuries, as well as renowned painters like José Hernández and Enrique Brinkmann. Sandoval, using the chromatic force of the Fauves and German Expressionists, creates a series of intensely textured works in which fruits and vegetables have been dissolved and transformed into purely psychic objects.

In the end, Pedro Sandoval is an artist of our time who has dedicated his life and abilities to painting without making concessions to the fashions and false appearances that flood the art market, tainted by crude dealers and unscrupulous gallery owners. These are the targets of the pointed invectives of one of the great contemporary critics and pristine promoters of the New York School, Dore Ashton. Sandoval invites the viewer to "see" his paintings, being aware of the act of contemplation, in the sense indicated by Hans Hofmann – not merely as a visual act, which would be equivalent to blindness. Will he succeed? Only time, critics, and collectors will tell. In the meantime, the Cheshire Cat will dance on his branch, directing his steps and ethereal smile toward uncertain horizons.

“In the end, Pedro Sandoval is an artist of our time who has dedicated his life and abilities to painting without making concessions to the fashions and false appearances that flood the art market, tainted by crude dealers and unscrupulous gallery owners.”