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Juan Canals/ Winter Issue

Juan Canals: Dynamism and Recycling

For Juan Canals Carreras (L'Hospitalet de Llobregat, 1964), getting results means venturing across a precipice, but to do that he must build a bridge, a path to salvation. He does this not by constraining the architecture but –in the words of Gilles Deleuze– “allowing chaos to determine its own order.” His art is based on holding back nothing that may arise, but not holding on to everything that does. He selects what works and discards what does not. If the more traditional academic methods teach that composition comes before execution, the exact opposite seems to have occurred in these paintings. Composition is determined in the final stages, after covering this area and rearranging that one, or by laying on cardboard cutouts taken from other pieces. One painting is nestled inside another, like a set of boxes; what had been a single drawing yesterday might be part of a different one today, or part of an entirely new painting. And the layers of cardboard, with their cuts and tears, refer back to that taste for the material that seduces so many painters in this part of the world.

Canals' painting is always surprising, and this is because it has not been subjected to any tyrannical maxim. It is not conditioned by some proposal that must be fulfilled, nor does it constitute some thesis that must be defended, beyond the pure act of painting, with purity understood to be a free, selfless act. Juan first lets loose an avalanche of impulses on his canvasses and cardboards, then later arranges and balances them.

Canals is nourished by a heritage of expressionism and abstraction, and by the lasting influence of matter painting. Although his brushstroke is easily recognizable, there is not a single mechanical repetition in his work: each line is fresh, each figure tells us something different. His language is made up of irregularities, and their inaccuracies are his freshest expression. Not a single drop of paint is fake or studied; there is no striking a pose, no application of makeup. What you see is what he did, and the observer does not feel deceived because, as with Aristotle, more importance is given to the process than to the finished product.

Far from hiding behind staged arrangements, this stranger to any kind of striking dramatic effect presents us with his naked work, in which recycling plays a fundamental role, and where his process remains out in the open. His characters –fabulous inventions that mix human, animal and technological aspects together, often in just one figure– narrate hilarious stories using colors and textures as well as the texts he occasionally incorporates. His strange airplanes fly us off on a longed-for escape, on a search for freedom.


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