The Tender Paintings by Juan Suarez Cobo: An Article In Memoriam by Amelia Mondrak
Juan Suárez Cobo (1914-2001) was born in La Calle del Agua (translated, The Street of Water) of the Andalusian barrio of the Albayzín, in Granada, Spain. He had two sisters and one brother, and being only 6 years old, he started working as a painters’ helper to contribute to his family’s low income.
His father had been a teacher, a farmer, and a shoe-maker, but due to the turmoil of WWI, it was increasingly more difficult for him to feed his family. This was the reason, as the little Juan was 7 years old, he decided to drop school and embark on an autodidact path for the rest of his life.
Later, when his father fell ill, he officially became the main economical source for the whole family. As a young man, he was a solicited and independent painter, and participated actively in the making of the mural paintings of many important buildings of the City of Granada, such as Hospital de San Juand de Dios (St. John of God Hospital), considered the second still-active oldest Hospital in Europe (17th Century), and the Diputación de Granada (County Council of Granada).
He was also interested in sports, and became a player of the Sportive Albayzin Team (see picture, second on the left, 1934). Goya, Velázquez, Sorolla and Morcillo, the last one also from Granada, were his artistic references. Due to life pressures and family commitments, he could only paint in his spare time, which was not much. His artistic studio was a garage, where he made all his paintings with the only aid of artificial light.
He painted lots of oil colours with the domestic themes of fruits, ceramics, kitchen utensils, and toys, paintings now scattered over homes in Spain. At the end of his life, being 80 years old, he wrote a series of philosophical and political pamphlets, titled “Political Replies”, describing his life memories under the fascist dictatorship that lasted 40 years after the Spanish Civil War. Below there are some fragments of these pamphlets.
Juan Suárez Cobo died in Granada on the 6th of November of 2001, as he was writing the 8th Part of his series of pamphlets. Unfortunately, he was not able to finish it.
“In the Port of Alicante, there are more than 50.000 people of all ages, silent, all of them looking at each other as if they were the guilty ones, with suitcases, with non-transcendental things, some with their dog; the time goes by, nothing happens inside the Port, there are tanks and armament, a gunshot, and many more, sounds, there is people who commits suicide, others climb high poles and throw themselves to the abyss, others throw themselves to the sea, looking for the death before giving up”….
“This is my picture, painted with my scarce picture and political knowledge, in front of the grandiosity of that other picture which expresses, with big brush-strokes, all of a sad episode of the Spanish Civil War, painted by that wise painter, Picasso”
“Corruption always springs, and is created, in all transformations of war and politics: the first one due to food scarcity, and, the second, due to money abundance”
“I haven’t seen yet any worker telling me that he/she is coming from the Trade Union from having a meeting or assembly, from talking or discussing the problems of his job or professional association; the “base” does not count, however much they (the Trade) show off saying that they are federalists, locals, provincials, or regionals. Only the Direction of the party counts”
“The worst that a Labour Union could be is politic, as it deviates from its mission, transforming any recognition into a political motive, but not for the worker, but for the party”
“Our education has been always conditioned and manipulated, not only by those who went to school, but by those of our own family, as they were also manipulated”
And writing about the “manipulators”: “These are the landowners that took advantage of lands and animals, at the cost of small farmers and hack court-burocrats, buying low cost mortgages and houses of the poor, which were dying of hunger. My father also had to sell his house to buy half a sack of flour, broad beans, lentils and chickpeas in the black market”.
“Other families, even poorer, lacking pawn objects to sell, had to resort to other means to acquire the essential to cover their naked bodies, through people who charged them highly, and weekly, in exchange of letting them use clothes from a shop or store”
“We live in a time that might still be medieval – maybe later than this one, but modern – where the lords are inciting their subjects to reconquer their lands. War acclaims them (the Lords) with the glory, the hunger and the misery; on the contrary, Peace humiliates them, to these plot-dividing creators of lands, zones and spaces, of races, ethnic groups, and religions”
“A man without a job is a walking dead within this system of money, or of the one who has the most”
And, also, speaking about the manipulators: “These politicians must be evicted, not only as politicians but also because of their sectarianism”
“Mankind does not invent anything, only observes and copies from Nature, after watching…” “ending in Skyscrapers”… “After these steps, given by mankind, the man starts creating a sentiment of admiration towards members of his own species, towards these primitive geniuses of the past, making them leaders, shamans, Gods, and idols, which are being transmitted through thousands of years till our time, not due to their inventions, but because of “language”, creating new shamans, Gods and myths which instil ideas about miracles till our times”
“Only Nature creates order, but the man punishes it and creates disorder”
And, to end his 7th pamphlet: “This is the history of those who participated in the War (as now it is called, “in the two bands”) and suffered it, however others want to silence and delete it”.