Joaquim Chancho
Spain, 1943
A student of the Sant Jordi School of Fine Arts in Barcelona, as early as the 1960s Joaquim Chancho shifted his focus to non-retinal painting. In the early 1970s he received a grant that allowed him to undertake a stay in Paris, and in 1973 he was awarded the Juan March Scholarship. During those years he became a staunch defender of the two-dimensional character of the pictorial surface based on a sequential, modular geometry that was facilitated by his use of screen printing inks. His entire oeuvre has been marked by this structural definition of painting and the restrictive use of black as a colour for expressing strength or introspection. Early in his career, he counterposed the structured geometric elements of his work to small signs resembling calligraphy. In some cases, this calligraphy covers over the entire surface in an austere colour range. Such explorations led him to produce large-format pieces on inked paper and canvases without stretcher bars as a way of going beyond the conventional physical space of the canvas. For much of the 1980s he gave up painting to concentrate on ‘desk work’, turning away from traditional media to focus on the possibilities offered by signs, lines and space—an approach that led him to produce a number of books and notebooks. In the late 1980s he returned to painting but continued to produce work on paper in his subsequent output. In both media, his work was shaped by a dialogue revolving around a certain notion of order, which from that point on he continually challenged in an ongoing search for its most changeable and unstable aspects. In the 1990s he gave his full attention to exacting work on vertical and horizontal pictorial sedimentations, which came to serve as a laboratory for measuring the medium itself in relation to the impulses of the artist’s hand. In the works he created during this period, multiple layers of juxtaposed colour ranges are distributed over the surface of the canvas, leaving a record of only spatial cardinality, the interior orders of a grid without hierarchies, like perceptible recordings of their own expansion in space. This distinctive style made Chancho one of Spain’s most austere and radical abstract painters. In the 2000s his output reached a level of complex reticular organisation that reflected his polyhedral (and therefore volumetric and depth-oriented) vision of space. This development was accompanied by a multiplication of the directionality of the structured sections, with the addition and removal of paint (sgraffito technique), which gives equal weight to positive and negative, space and form, always underpinned by a slow, affective temporality in the production process. Chancho weaves a reticular fabric—executed in oil or in a series of drawings—that forms chains, contracts, or gives rise to juxtapositions, reaffirming the moral importance of disturbed order that runs through painting from Giotto, to Caravaggio, to Barnett Newman, in works that also resonate with the arrhythmic cadences that can be found in poetry and jazz. In 1973 he started working as a lecturer and professor at the Escola de Sant Jordi, which in 1978 became the School of Fine Arts of the University of Barcelona. He continued teaching until his retirement in 2013, training countless artists over his career and developing ideas that remain relevant today. Since 1987 he has also worked with the EINA University School of Design and Art.
Teresa Blanch