Contrary to most landscape painters who seek to render the exterior world surrounding them, Tomás Sánchez depicts lush tropical scenes representing the artist's interiority. Working within his studio, Sánchez conjures fantastic forests from his imagination in a hyperrealist style that makes these invented places seem all the more familiar. According to Sánchez, these peaceful painted paradises illustrate an inward journey rather than a geographic destination:
When I enter a state of meditation it's as if I'm in a jungle or a forest; the mind enters into a great exhilarated state, like an exuberant jungle where you can experience fear, desire, anguish-all types of emotions and feelings. When I begin to feel that there's a point of inner consciousness everything goes toward that inner space, that inner river that place of quiet, the realm of tranquility within the forest.(1)
Once persecuted for his practice of deep meditation and Siddha Yoga, Sánchez now freely expresses his journey toward personal enlightenment in his work. In many of Sánchez's images, a seated figure appears enveloped by luxuriant foliage and absorbed in profound contemplation. This diminutive person suggests a self-portrait of the spiritual Sánchez, yet the artist describes this being as a witness of consciousness, a state reached through meditation to which the viewer is also invited to arrive. In Silencio a las tres, the witness appears in a parting of the dense forest on the banks of a river. While these three recurrent images: meditative man, tropical jungle and the water's edge, refer to the artist's life and his homeland of Cuba, they relate to eastern philosophy as well. As Sánchez explained:
Some of these [symbols] are very universal ones, like the bank--or the shore--which, in a way, represents the influence of what I observed on the Isla de Juventud. On one hand these pictures are based on reality but I can't deny their relationship with the symbol of the shore in Hindu philosophy, which represents a state that one should strive to attain.
The seated figure on the bank in Silencio a las tres calls the viewer into the picture plane to experience absolute tranquility and awareness.
Similar ideas are also expressed in the work of German Romantic artist Caspar David Friedrich whom Sánchez claims as a seminal influence. Friedrich's sublime paintings privilege faith, emotion and spirituality over rationalism and realistic interpretations of landscape. The small figures that appear in Friedrich's works, set against a vast expanse of sea or sky, contemplate the power of nature and man's existence within it. By extension, the viewer, gazing upon the man engaged with nature, is drawn into his meditation, just as the figure in Silencio a las tres beckons to us as well. Another important precedent for Sánchez is the Hudson River School, the nineteenth century's most celebrated American landscape movement. Sánchez's paintings show many affinities with the work of Frederick Edwin Church, one of the school's most prominent artists. Church's highly detailed images of lush forests in South America not only share a similar subject matter with Sánchez's, they convey an analogous reverence for nature as well. In addition to these historical sources, the artist's fertile, verdant jungles also recall those of contemporary Nicaraguan artist Armando Morales, whom Sánchez has called, "Latin America's best landscape artist." Morales' mysterious tropical worlds, however, often appear impenetrable, whereas Sánchez's forests with their receding paths and rivers offer the viewer a passageway into a space beyond the canvas. Such an invitation exists in Silencio a las tres; here Sánchez leads us away from the everyday and into the wild interior of ourselves.
1) T. Sánchez in an interview with E. Sullivan in: Tomás Sánchez, Milan, Skira, 2003, 18.