Juan Bernal Ponce (1938 - 2006)


    Juan Bernal Ponce attended the Escuela de Bellas Artes, Viña del Mar from the age of sixteen, studying printmaking with Carlos Hermosilla and drawing with Hans Soyka. In 1957 he entered the Escuela de Arquitectura of the Universidade de Chile de Valparaiso where he was taught by Camilo Mori and the architect Ventura Galvan. He completed his professional training in architecture at the Universidad de Chile de Santiago (1960-65). In parallel with this he assisted the teaching of printmaking at Taller 99, then based in the University's Escuela de Artes Aplicadas.

    In 1962 he spent a year at the Atelier 17, Paris, studying with William Hayter. He returned to Paris again in 1967 to attend the Ecole Nationale des Beaux Arts. In the course of his visits to Europe he formed contact with schools of abstract, surrealist and expressionist art; this experience was a motivation to move from figurative, realist works and towards abstraction. The prints that he produced between 1960 and 1963 contain elements that reflect his contact with Matta, Ernst and Miro. After returning to Chile and working with artists such as Roser Bru, Nemesio Antunez, Santos Chavez, and Delia del Carril at the Taller 99, Bernal Ponce's work developed into the elemental, constructivist style that characterises the three 1970 drawings held by ESCALA.

    Bernal Ponce has shown work internationally, including solo exhibitions in Paris, Estocolmo, Rome, San Francisco and Buenos Aires. He has widely participated in collective international exhibitions, including the Bienal de Sao Paulo (1964-1968); the Bienal de Grabado, Santiago (1967-1969); the Bienal de Artes Gráficas, Cali (1973-1974); the Bienal de San Juan (1982-1990), and Intergrafik, Berlín (1981-1987). Amongst his awards are the Premio de Grabado Wanda Svevo, IX Bienal de Sao Paulo (1967); the Premio de Honor, II Bienal de Artes Gráficas de Cali (1973), and the Premio Crítica e Historia, Bienal de Arquitectura, Costa Rica (1995).
    Bernal Ponce decided to leave Chile at the end of Salvador Allende's government; after winning the Premio de Honor at the Bienal de Artes Graficas in Cali, Colombia, he emigrated to Costa Rica, where he has lived since 1974. He completed a doctorate at the country's Universidad Nacional and was Professor at the Escuela de Arquitectura of the Universidade de Costa Rica; he directed the University's Taller de Expresión and was active as an art critic.

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