Pedro Ruiz


Bogotá, Colombia, 1957

Pedro Ruiz's work occupies itself with social and political issues that affect countries worldwide. Nature and the concept that it is a force that we cannot control and must live in harmony with, is ever-present in his works. Ruiz has developed numerous series through paintings and installations like Love is in the Air, Desire, Displacements, Gold, Natural Gold, Desire, Colombiana Light and most recently, Ibargüen.

Seeking to find that which unites Colombians as a people, Pedro Ruiz presents the “Ibargüen” series, which pays homage to the great athelete Caterine Ibargüen, who, in winning gold for Colombia at the Olypic Games in Rio, was able to bring together the entire country. The struggle over the peace agreement in Colombia, and the polarizing sides of “Yes” and “No,” moved Ruiz to pursue those themes which unite Colombians despite all that currently divides them. Through the unifying power of sport brought forth by the glory of Caterine, Ruiz found a source of inspiration and of unification.

Love is in the Air is reminiscent of a nostalgic poem bleeding with elements of a love that seems to have drifted away from where it is needed most. Images of strikingly beautiful poppies overwhelm our sentiments, almost misleading in their humorous delight, as love songs fill the air. A sinister thread of gas hangs, an ironically gentle yet foreboding sign of the destruction yet to come.

Focusing on the politically charged theme of fumigating heroine producing poppies, Pedro Ruiz’ latest body of work imbues his subject with a spiritual and utterly human tone, posing the most basic yet complex of questions: where is the love when such drastic acts take place? Behind such devastating beauty lies an irony that is at once fragile, humorous, and deeply profound, one that Ruiz hopes will bring viewers to thoroughly contemplate a problem that involves all of us as a society. For when violence breaks, it is a ripple effect of involvement and suffering, and the solutions proposed yield no true answer.

As Carl Jung has expressed, “Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart…who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakens.” It is precisely this awakening that Ruiz is calling upon, and through the lovely irony of bittersweet reflection, he begs the question, where is the love?

Through this series Pedro Ruiz gracefully alludes to the tragedy born from warfare in Colombia, juxtaposing strikingly harmonious and peaceful images of a man transporting a symbolic representation of his homeland in a canoe with the painful context that this image represents: that of the forced displacements in this country. Displacements grew from the artist’s perception that, through art, the collective memory of a country in conflict can grow beyond that of sorrowful memories of loss. From Displacements stems the idea that those who have had to leave their home, their land, their place of origin, always take a part of it within themselves. The image of banana trees bathed in red alludes to the violence and heartbreak suffered by those who must depart from a territory that is an essential part of their being. Whether those displaced take their land with them in its natural state, or metaphorically tainted in red, this body of works demonstrates how nature can find itself in tune with the reality of our existence.

GOLD, Spirit and Nature of a Territory, born out of the artist’s Displacements series, seeks to convey the essence of the Colombian spirit, with the canoes now carrying elements of a beloved cultural patrimony to be shared with the rest of the world. Conceived as a traveling exhibition of 40 unsellable miniature works, 4 have now been transferred into a larger format, reflecting a collective identity that leaves behind the sweeping stereotypes born from violence and conflict, to encompass a clearer definition of who Colombians truly are.

When displaced Colombians must depart, relinquish their home, and start anew, the cultural elements embodied in their identity escape and are overshadowed by the definition of a country wrought with warfare and difficulty. They are no longer from the Colombia whose butterflies rise to the heights of planes flying at dawn, but from a country that is suspiciously judged before being truly experienced. With GOLD, Spirit and Nature of a Territory, Ruiz serenely invites us to reflect and meditate upon the different values that throughout the centuries have shaped this nation, asking us to look beyond the initial impression, through the multifaceted layers, and into the heart of a rich and complex identity.

Pedro Ruiz presents a new series that derives itself directly from his series “Gold, Spirit and Nature of a Territory,” and proposes conceptual variations. Although he continues to invite the observer to preserve Colombia’s and the world’s most precious natural values and treasures, the symbolic aspect of the image is strengthened by its simplicity. The calm and unassuming appearance of the works, evokes images of eastern mysticism that reinforce a direct and powerful invitation to reflect… to contemplate upon the urgency of mankind to reconnect to the natural world, a vital relationship necessary for the continuing evolution of humanity and today’s world.

Pedro Ruiz's work has traditionally revolved around the social and political issues that affect his own country Colombia, as well as countries worldwide. His latest series, “Desire,” is born from an earlier series entitled “Love Is In the Air,” which concerned itself with the fumigation of heroine producing poppies in Colombia, a both altruistic and terrible act, since the side affect of this fumigation was detrimental to local populations. Pedro Ruiz seeks to initiate reflection upon society’s obsession with consumption, and he plays upon the dangers inherent in apparently beautiful objects or elements of nature. With “Love Is In the Air,” a lovely poppy can be abused by humanity for uses harmful to society.

With “Desire,” Ruiz takes these poppies and instead of painting them upon magazine pages, as he does in “Love Is In the Air,” he photographs these images, magnifies them into larger sizes, and creates work that comments upon the various longings of a consuming society. One always desires to be thinner, richer, more beautiful, desiring to be desired. This never stops, becoming an unreachable goal that instigates a vicious cycle within society, an addiction without end. As an artist, he is consistently considering humanity’s connection to nature, using it to give an ironic touch to his social commentaries, asking us to reflect upon how we live, how we view ourselves, and how we want to lead our lives. Even nature, in its enticing beauty, is subject to misuse given society’s addictions. So many of humanity’s problems are born from this desire, when will we stop to reflect upon how far we’ve gone to consume it?

Pedro Ruiz's work has traditionally revolved around the social and political tragedy of displacement. In his previous paintings, Ruiz gracefully refers to this tragedy prevalent in Colombia born from warfare, political instability, natural disasters and need, in a poetic and extremely moving manner. As an artist, he is constantly considering his own country, Colombia, its past and humanity’s connection to nature. This series brings an ironic touch to these considerations, while maintaining a profound sensibility to the connections born between the feminine, the sacred, and nature itself. In “Colombiana Ligera,” an exotic Colombian woman carries the canoe, famous from his “Displacements” and “GOLD” series, upon her head, carrying with her nature’s inherent wonders. Ruiz, while taking his title from a popular Colombian soda drink known as Colombiana Light, seeks to spur forward a dialogue in which humanity considers its own place in nature, its mass consumerism, and the reality in which we exist today. Using humor and irony to make his own homage to nature, Ruiz points out “I am not interested in attacking, I am interested in creating dialogues.” Through this, Ruiz wishes Colombians will seek to reclaim their identity, as one of natural wonders, as opposed to one that has been imposed due to factors such as warfare and political instability. For Ruiz, our humanity lies inherent in nature, and through art, the collective memory of a country in conflict can grow beyond that of sorrowful memories of loss and turn to the beautiful and harmonious elements of nature that compose it.
Pedro Ruiz has exhibited in multiple museums and arts institutions, his work is part of various prominent collections and he has received numerous prizes and distinctions. In 2011 he was knighted by the French government with the Order of Arts and Letter, and due to his social and community work, in 2014 was named Friend of Unicef.