Painter, sculptor, architect, and environmental crusader, Cesar Manrique is regarded as the father of modern Lanzarote but his influence touched all corners of the Canary Islands. As I learnt more about the man and his legacy at a new exhibition in Santa Cruz my mind wandered to the Parque Maritimo swimming complex a short walk across the Tenerife capital. The functional and stylish design was inspired by the great man and the park is adorned with samples of his work. I could have just as easily stretched my recall to the south of Tenerife and Plaza Cesar Manrique in Adeje and many points in between.
“Atlantic Ocean, my master, supreme and constant lesson of enthusiasm, passion, and freedom. My capacity of observation was tenacious in those summertimes.”
Observation was the key to Cesar’s work, he had a great love of his island and its people, early sketches, paintings, and photos showed locals working the vineyards, the salt pans, and the sea. The first of two floors reflected the rich colours and textures of a volcanic landscape that was born from eruptions between 1730 and 1736. Each alcove included a centre piece such as a model of the island, a video of the moving clouds, or a 3D frame of fishing nets. Where many would have seen destruction and burning, Cesar rejoiced in the creation of new shapes and rich colours left in the wake of fire and lava.
In the early 1960’s Cesar’s hunger for knowledge took him to New York and the Avant Garde movement, this phase of his work takes over on the second floor. Many of the paintings are abstract and surreal but his love of life and people still shines through. Travel added a new focus to Cesar’s life, he was determined to help Lanzarote develop sustainable tourism, years before it became a mantra for the industry. Returning home he worked closely with government to lay down basic laws and guidelines but first he made in depth studies of his island to assess traditional accommodation and to find out what new infrastructure was needed. Water supplies, communications, and even the airport featured in his plans to ensure the pieces all fitted together.
“My absolute worry was to defend the landscape and the environment, I believed habitat considered as a whole was an important factor since landscape and architecture can be perfectly integrated and adapted to the land.”
The exhibition includes sketches and plans for his building projects and there is even a recreation of one of his surreal designs, used here to link two of the display areas. Not everything Cesar created was purely functional, there is a sense of fun in much of his quirky landscape architecture. Each stage of his life and work is accompanied in the exhibition by background information and the published thoughts and teachings of Cesar Manrique in Spanish and English. The scope and diversity of the works here strike the right balance between the different mediums that Cesar worked in and give a great insight into the motivation of the man. On my visit there was a school party doing the rounds, it’s good to see his legacy carried on not only through his foundation but also in a new generation sharing his affinity with the diverse environments of the Canary Islands.
Cesar Manrique, La Conciencia del Paisaje; Espacio Cultural Caja Canarias, Plaza del Patriotismo, Santa Cruz; open Monday to Saturday 11am to 2pm and 5pm to 8pm
Entrance €3 (free for clients of Caja Canarias, €1 residents)