There’s something about Gabriel Sanchez’s work that’s almost addictive. Maybe it’s the serotonin-boosting colour palettes – something that’s been lacking here in the UK – or his ability to capture friendship, hope and intimacy. Either way, the audience are invited to learn more of the people he’s painting, whether it’s by listening in on a phone call or observing a trio (in the nude) as they peak over a wall.
Gabriel is a figurative artist by trade, born in Miami to a Cuban father and Nicaraguan mother. At just 12 years old, Gabriel first picked up a brush – the start of it all. After his family moved to Boulder, he attended the University of Colorado and received a BFA in painting. “I began painting portraits and figurative work to express my passion for people,” he tells It’s Nice That. However, his professional career didn’t officially lift off until he’d moved to LA after college, which is when he landed his first solo show and exhibited works on the young people in the vicinity. “My roots were calling me to my grandfather’s native country, Cuba,” he continues. “So I relocated to Havana, where I am focused on painting friends, family members and acquaintances who are embedded in this intriguing culture.”
Not only do Gabriel’s paintings emit a scorching sense of heat from the warm Cuban weather, they also portray a deep connection between artist and subject. You can tell instantly how both sides are familiar with one another, a relationship fuelled by Gabriel’s ethos for representing the personalities of everyone he meets. “I love to capture the strength and vulnerability of young people in Cuba,” he adds. Inspiration, then, can spawn from the smallest of interactions to the more allusive, like when an artist expresses themselves through their mediums, “especially when an audience is tuned in to them”. It’s this energy between people that Gabriel seems to be most intrigued by.
Once an idea has sparked, the artist paints in two half-hour segments throughout the day, leaving a healthy portion for spending time with his new family and managing the “responsibilities as a father”. The home-studio days are therefore attuned with this mindset – an intuitive, balanced and fatherly one – as he paints with a coffee in hand, while the afternoons see him knuckle down on bigger paintings. “And in the evening when everyone is asleep, I work another session at home,” he says. The fruit of his hard work is a portfolio of numerous characters – figures from real life – plus a mix of classical and experimental aesthetics.
A piece named Mirando al Mundo and Looking at the World [pictured above] are exemplary of this artistic mission. Featuring three young Cubans naked on a rooftop, “unaware of the viewer”, the audience can only see them from behind. “It is a painting about innocence, vulnerability, freedom and hopefulness as they look at the world below and imagine a better future,” he explains. Interestingly, the palette was devised from the colours of the Cuban flag, chosen by way of wanting the viewer to “feel how Cubans may feel living on this island with a lot of material strife”. Like the rest of his works, it’s immensely personal and thought-provoking. He concludes: “I even consider this painting a self-portrait of sorts.”
Gabriel Sanches: Larga Distancia, oil on canvas (Copyright © Gabriel Sanchez, 2022)
About the Author
Ayla is currently covering Jenny as It’s Nice That’s online editor. She has spent nearly a decade as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.