Joan Hernández Pijuan

Des de la Finestra

30.8.2013 - 26.10.2013


Simple, stark, primordial, unpretentious – these are some of the adjectives used to describe the work of Joan Hernández Pijuan, comments intended to express sincere recognition of a unique approach to painting. It is impossible to squeeze this artist into any one of the various avant-garde styles. Having created abstract works based on reality that, at first glance, seem to be minimalistic yet are multi-layered and complex in their construction, the artist commands an eminent position in the international art scene.


'I always try to paint as though I knew nothing about painting, as though each piece was my first,' Joan Hernández Pijuan described his unpremeditated approach to each and every one of his works. Eschewing the detailed representation of an impression, he focused on the essence, the archetypical, unmistakeable characteristics of a landscape, a road, a field, of a tree or a house captured in succinct and sketchy contours.


Joan Hernández Pijuan used to spend his summers in the rural Catalan village of Folquer, at a distance of some 150 kilometres (93 miles) from vibrant Barcelona. From the 1970s onwards, he focused his attention on the barren, tranquil and monotonous landscape of his origins. His palette, dominated by ochre, reddish-brown sienna, saturated green, sun-drenched yellow, opaque white and iridescent black, evokes nature's earthy hues and the play of light and colour observed during his walks and from his studio window.


In Joan Hernández Pijuan's oil paintings, layer upon layer of paint emerges from deep within, often in reference to nature's eternal cycle. Using a spatula, the artist applied his paints in pastose structures to the canvas before scoring signs quickly and deliberately into the still malleable paint with a piece of charcoal or the tip of a brush-handle, in a continuous process that can only be described as sculptural. Each added stratum contains the furrows and ornamental patterns inscribed at previous stages. The act of painting is rendered visible; tension emerges between the abundant pictorial space and the scarified work's apparent emptiness. In Des de la Finestra (From the Window), Joan Hernández Pijuan lightly overpainted a vibrant green ground with matte, translucent black through which the green remains visible, accentuated by frame-like contours that evoke a picture within a picture – the window.


With complete disregard for the battle of paradigms raging among art historians, Joan Hernández Pijuan revisited the same motifs many times. He also attributed equal status to his drawings. While his oils combine the techniques of drawing and painting, in his works on paper, contour lines or smudges of colour replace the scorings of his oils. One example is Rosa horizontal, whose ground, moreover, is a smoky pink rarely seen elsewhere in this œuvre.


Joan Hernández Pijuan was born in Barcelona in 1931; he died in his native city in December 2005. Since 1976 he had been a professor at Escuela Superior de Bellas Artes de Sant Jordi, Barcelona – where he had once been a student. In 1989 he was appointed Chair of Painting at Facultad de Bellas Artes of Barcelona University. In 1996 he was made a member of the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, Madrid. His works featured three times at the Venice Biennale, twice as he represented his country (1960, 1970), and in 2005 when he was honoured with a special show at the Italian pavilion. Also in 2005 he was awarded the Premio Nacional de Arte Gráfico for his œuvre. Frequent exhibitions of his works and their presence in highly renowned international collections such as the Museum of Modern Art, New York, or the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, are testament to the continuing recognition of his work.



Marie-Louise Teichmann