Exhibition title: Juan Hernández. A Passion for Life
Curator: Carlos Díaz-Bertrana
Dates: 15.06.2022 to 18.09.2022
Place: CAAM – Los Balcones 11. Plantas 1 y 2. Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. Spain.
Hours: Tuesday to Saturday from 10am to 9pm. and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Precocious in both life and in death, Juan Hernández died in Gran Canaria in 1988, just a few days before his thirty-second birthday, embodying the tragic fate of the romantic artist.
A self-taught artist with boundless vital energy, he made an entrance into the art scene in the Canary Islands like a comet. At first his poetics was torn between conceptual art and informalist painting. In 1977 he created his Paisajes en blanco y negro (Landscapes in Black and White), a series of informalist, expressionist and abstract renderings of the scorched earth of Lanzarote, a primeval world in expansion, of emptiness, forces and tensions. In black and white, reminiscent of Saura and Millares, yet divested of their political charge. More poetic than ideological, Juan Hernández delved into American abstract expressionism and its defence of a kind of painting based on gesture, action and spontaneity conveying a sense of vital urgency, in which the act of painting is at one with the artist’s psyche.
When Hernández spent a few months in Paris in 1980, a landslide of colour inundated his painting. His poetics was revitalized by Matisse, Cézanne, the post-impressionists and Monet, filling it with light and joie de vivre. He expanded his formats, composing with Rothko-like fields of colour, French chromatic sensuality and Atlantic light. His abstract expressionist lineage was impregnated with serial brushwork borrowed from the postimpressionist tradition that enlivened the image. A diagonal vertigo extended across the canvas, superimposed over the forms, a chromatic tempest ushered in by a defining painterly technique based on deliquescent layers, glazes, transparencies and pure, shiny colours.
In 1983 he arrived in Madrid, a place without beaches, and so, as he said, “yellow disappeared from my painting”. It now becomes darker and more melancholic, entering a dialogue with classic themes, with the old masters he studied on his frequent visits to the Prado museum and those he saw in temporary exhibitions. He reconciles sensorial experiences with symbolic and historicist ones; a time when still lifes and allegories entered his poetics.
In 1986 Hernández returned to Gran Canaria, to the beaches of his childhood: Las Canteras, Maspalomas. He said, “I don’t see the sea as an island or as subject matter but as a backdrop and light”. In fact, his theme is painting itself, something that informs all his endeavours: love, death, passion, and solitude, the obsession that drove him to paint almost sixty canvases of El Faro, and the speed and immediacy that characterized his time. Like Goethe, he seeks a form that is not rigid immobility, rather passing time and becoming, life itself. El Faro, the lighthouse, erect, standing, static, alert sexuality. Vertical motifs abound in his compositions. His painting is always emotional.
El Poema del Faro, an aesthetic experience of memory which is activated in Madrid and painted obsessively, perhaps to capture life, love and time. The lighthouse, a beach and the sea, a twilight paradise. And, in his final paintings, beyond the shore, an allegory of love and of death with the same protagonist, Cupid, who playfully rides on a whale in an ocean from which columns and capitals emerge, perhaps from some improbable Atlantis.
Within his poetics, narrative is a minor god and the symbolism of his works of art is generally more intuitive than planned, fruitful chance and collective unconscious: the sea according to Carl Jung.