Several paintings by the painter Pepe Dámaso light up Triana Tourist Information Office, in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.
When he comes on stage, one gets the feeling that the air lights up and a warm breeze starts to blow, as when the rays of the morning sun creep into a room with views of the ocean. Pepe Dámaso, born in Agaete (Gran Canaria) in 1933 and one of the Canary Islands most universal artists, is the ambassador of light and colour of his island birthplace. Pepe says that one has to “emborregar” (a local word for rolling in the sand) tourism in flour and give tourists a taste of fried moray eel, “toasted and salty like the sea”. When the painter speaks, his Gran Canaria speaks through him.
“We have to combine culture and tourism”, advocates Dámaso, who from an early age followed the trail blazed by such renowned artists as Néstor Martín Fernández de la Torre and César Manrique. In 1957, with twenty-four years crammed with creativity, he painted a series of works inspired by the tourism boom. In these, he created a universe of banana tree groves, sunlight, cactuses, sunshades, shades of blue, fish, gánigos (traditional clay bowls), palm trees, dragon trees, golden sands and white houses, in such a way that the make the island “a warm and vital call, a cry of culture in the very being of tourism” in the words of Gran Canaria’s Official Chronicler, Juan José Laforet.
Six decades later, that almost juvenile work of the holder of the Canary Islands Fine Arts Prize and Favourite Son of Gran Canaria shines on brightly once again. The artist and the Council of Gran Canaria have created a new promotional framework called ‘J.Dámaso & Gran Canaria’, inspired in six of the paintings of this collection entitled ‘Gran Canaria en los ojos de Pepe Dámaso’ (Gran Canaria through the eyes of Pepe Dámaso) .
These paintings with their overflowing luminosity will take pride of place in the Tourist Information Office in Calle Mayor de Triana, in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. This is one more of the many branches of Pepe Dámaso’s art, as they join the sculpture ‘El Árbol de Llull’ (Llull’s Tree), which also bears his signature and presides over the entrance to the space.
Laforet stresses that the project ‘J. Dámaso & Gran Canaria’ paves the way for “another tandem that the chronicle of an essence, of the development of identity that unfolds in that encounter between peoples and individuals that tourism fosters today. The island of white rooms and the dragon tree with its roots in prehistory that looms over the future, the palm trees that one can make out on a welcoming horizon, in a paradise of plantain groves, cactus and an unrepentant sun that shows itself in the sand and in the sea, an island that is also Atlantean and the multi-coloured fish that inhabit its waters”.
What is more, the images that comprise the collection will serve as the basis for the creation of an extensive catalogue of promotional products including bookmarkers, refrigerator magnets, diaries, t-shirts and reproductions of the paintings that make up ‘Gran Canaria through the eyes of Pepe Dámaso’, thus making the most of the work of a “visionary”, to quote the local Minister for Tourism, Inés Jiménez.
The log of the brand ‘J.Dámaso & Gran Canaria’ will be worn on the lapel of the promoters of the island in Europe’s leading tourism trade fairs. So, in this way, Dámaso’s crystalline chuckle, his ever-present smile, art of painting and of living, and his tireless brushes will expand along with his island, as he has always done, painting the great mural of its future.
Bio de Pepe Dámaso [PDF]