Last Friday, Soppa de Azul had welcomed pianist, composer, music teacher and now also a painter – Sergio López Figuerosa. Canary born artist studied music conservatory in Las Palmas and after other studies in Italy, Spain and in London. He started a new project called “Humming in Harmony” which is a community of creative mindfulness using sound and vocal harmonies to listen, connect and to heal mind, body and spirit.
After being diagnosed prostate cancer in October 2018, Sergio discovered passion for painting, and it became his way how to deal with the radiotherapy treatment. His very first public exhibition took place in gallery of Soppa de Azul. The opening flowed in a chamber, friendly atmosphere, without any official speech or introduction, accompanied only by Sergio´s piano pieces. All his paintings were for sale, and some people had purchased few of them.
We had asked Sergio few questions about his art and himself:
SdA: How would you describe you and your art?
SL: This is my first exhibition; I am composer and pianist. For four years I have been developing a practice of mindfulness using the human voice – humming, as a tool to connect people who are different, as a way of relaxing and connecting with each other. Partly as a mental health approach because we are living in isolation, the system is about separation. Recently I was diagnosed prostate cancer, so I started to apply this technique, “humming in harmony” how it’s called, on myself. Because I had to travel a lot, I decided to be treated back home at Gran Canaria, where I am from. I have decided to come here and started drawing, first just for pleasure, some kind of mandala, to deal with the inner feelings, how I felt about the illness, the relationship with the hospital and myself. As I said, this is my first exhibition, there are 22 paintings which correspond chronologically how I drew them. Every picture has a code, or like a note and that corresponds to a sequence I used in a piece of music that I was performing here and totally improvised, just to prove the case of liberating, when you play from the heart, because every classical musician can improvise. I used the humm sequence as a base and for the first time here at Soppa de Azul, I created a poetry between the vision and sound where people can just listen and look at the pictures because they are kind of anthropomorphic, some are chaotic. I am not neglecting my health at all, so now I’m working on two projects, one is developing of a humming app and I will be launching a campaign that will last for 2 months with idea of training people all around the world, because with humming it does not matter which language, everyone can humm. But I can’t be all over, so that will be my first approach – the mindfulness app on sound meditation and sounds healing. But on parallel, I am planning to set up an empathy network for carrying cancer because in both countries UK and in Spain, is the same problem with any NGO, even in hospital, we have to be healed and at the moment one of the things that is lacking is power of mind in to the body how can we control things and help all the emotional up and down that we have and I think this network will be very beneficial. The idea is that everyone can contribute and at the moment, I am really keen to find doctors and people who work in giving to others as a type of work, let’s say with healthcare social care teachers or art therapist. Human aspect of care is very important, and I feel very happy in Gran Canaria because you feel like human being. My doctor waves in hospital and say “Hi Sergio”. It’s very human. My purpose of this exhibition is to give an opportunity to people to experience humming for the first time, to talk about how they feel about the illness and just to have a chat.
SdA: What does inspire you in your art and drawings?
SL: The first idea is, I am 53 and I feel very young to have cancer and prostate in not an organ that you have a relationship with. We can have an image of a heart, of a liver roughly, but the prostate… I need to build a relationship with an organ that is ill, I don’t want to be antagonistic and all. The cancer series are about fighting, and I am pacifist, so my first drawing was called “Tree of life” and I started with the shape which I imagined. Then, with the other drawing, I was thinking what I can draw only the with triangles, so I said, lets do my own mandala. But what happened eventually, every drawing becomes like a creature almost half human, half animal with idea of visualization of the cells as an internal body but with the emotions. With drawing “Anger”, I was writing shapes, but I started from pure emotions and “Fertility” for instance, that was the reality I had to face after radiation I won’t be able to have children, so I draw that without specific idea. “Let’s go” is about let things go, the past, the negativity and I was throwing away. Later my style changed without thinking too much, the drawing “letter C” is using C as for cancer. So, I had this idea to represent cells as a red one, like a color of aggressive and had this crazy idea what would happen if the cancer cells would kill each other, like cannibalism. It’s a silly idea. People are saying ‘you are becoming obsessive; you are drawing too much’. No, I took it easy and things are flowing. And over time I developed a kind of different style. That one ‘dick head’ was about getting rid of toxic people. It is very graphic and I did not think to draw very graphic dicks on the top of the someone’s head. Step by step it becomes more and more colorful, playful. Other drawing, I did when I was in hospital, just before the operation. I felt positive in the whole process and I want to encourage people to look at themselves. This is not about ‘look at me’, it’s about the reflection what people with cancer or any terminal illness can do through art.
SdA: What technique do you use for your drawings?
SL: I use ink pens, not water base but alcohol base and I limit myself to number of colors because is the full range so I had the idea of limitation and then drawing pens with different size I started drawing the shapes actually in black and white, like the mandalas, and then colored except the last one which looks different. I am starting mixing colors; it was like liberation after the operation went well I started to use colors.
SdA: Do you have different emotions when you play piano, compose the music or draw?
SL: I was trained as a media composer for film and I have been doing lots of music for avant-garde silent film. And that thought me a lot how to build a space between image and music and giving elements of vision on contemporary music. I like mixture of emotions, especially music, you work with layers, things happen at the same time so its very simplistic to say ok this is a happy song. I think in drawing you can’t see both, reality and the other… I’m kind of eclectic.
SdA: How did you perception on music and art in general changed after your diagnose?
SL: We believe more in what we see than what we hear and now is more difficult to convey the society. Music influences how your percept on things, in some way it is very machiavellic. If I play the piano, you can change the perception the way how you perceive time. In exhibition people are afraid of silence. Normally, during the exhibition, people wander around. It’s very rare to spend time just watching. What I noticed when I was playing piano it changed the impression. It’s like a catharsis. I was wondering what would be the impressions if I done drawings on big canvas, but the process would require lots of effort and it’s not what I want, it would not be therapeutic if I have to think a lot and make a lots of effort. Here everything was flowing like never in my life. That was really empowering.
Sda: Would you like to continue with drawing?
SL: Definitely yes. My plan is drawing of series black and white mandalas for people to color and probably running workshops to let people to draw their own drawings and discover their own creativity. What I am saying here, every human being can be creative if they are allowed. We put a lot of barriers like “I don’t know how to sing, fear of singing, fear of drawing” and I want to encourage people, when you get rid of the judgement everything can be good. I want to combine both, music workshop and drawing.