'Everything in life needs some drama': Pedro Pedro's appetising still life paintings contain hidden tensions

Los Angeles-based artist Pedro Pedro has returned to The Hole art gallery with his third solo show of paintings and drawings – Table, Fruits, Flowers and Cakes – which sees the wholesomeness of still life coexist with a sense of disquiet.

Running until 29 April, Table, Fruits, Flowers, and Cakes is the largest exhibition Pedro Pedro has ever showcased. Featuring fourteen paintings on linen and nine on paper, the show takes the familiar subject of food and plays with it by skewing the perspective, heightening unease with subtle details, and cleverly referencing its context in art history.

Highlights from the exhibition include a lobster and lemon dish – which Pedro says is a recurring representation of gluttony – through to a seemingly tempting chocolate cake with a single bite taken out of it and the artist's own updates of classic pieces such as Giovanna Garzoni's Still Life with Bowl of Citrons.

And while the vibrant colours and smooth paint application may look pleasing to the eye, there are telling details that communicate a sense of discomfort. Despite appearing to be appetising banquets, these meals either remain untouched or appear to be abandoned after an initial taste. Is there something wrong with them lying beneath the surface?

Speaking about these artistic choices, Pedro tells Creative Boom: "I enjoy any tension I can get in the work. The tension appeals to me, whether it be with colours or subjects. I think it's important to have it. Everything in life needs some drama." As for the absence of people, he simply explains that "they didn't feel necessary in this series."

This drama isn't expressed purely through food, though. Paintings of suitcases spilling open and floral baskets with wilting flowers also help to create the impression of a haunting juxtaposition. As for the predominance of food in the exhibition, Pedro reveals that: "Food tends to be a subject I use to convey the shapes, colours and compositions I imagine."

One of the most curious qualities of Pedro's artwork is how he applies paint. Rather than laying on oil or acrylics with a brush or palette knife, he dyes the pigments onto unprimed linen sheets. He gradually builds the colours that way, resulting in a muted tonality.

"I use a certain paint that gives a dyed effect; it's called 'dye-na-flow,'" Pedro explains. "I start with a few layers to flesh out the imagery; then I'll finish it with a thicker textile colour paint."

As for the decision to paint on linen sheets, this creative approach was borne out of a hospital operation. After spending time in bed recovering, Pedro has the idea to use bed sheets as a canvas. Since then, he primarily uses raw linen to create his paintings, usually with watercolours.

Besides his paint application, Pedro's use of perspective is also a prime example of his creativity. Everything appears tipped up, made vertical, and as if it might slide off the linen at any moment and come crashing onto the gallery floor.

"Any traditional perspective is not something I concern myself with often," he adds. "I tend to skew certain things to move along the painting elements and for compositional purposes."

Despite this underlying tension, Table, Fruits, Flowers, and Cakes is a feast for the eyes, and it's no coincidence that Pedro has decided to return to The Hole for a third time. "The gallery has a certain circus carnival sideshow energy to it, and that excites me," he concludes. "It's full of large personalities that know how to put on a spectacle, and they keep me well fed with lobster pasta and caviar." Who knows, maybe the gallery lunch will be the subject of Pedro's next masterpiece?


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