Gli strumeni dell'arte

Salvador Juanpere

(Reus, Tarragona, 1953 - )

Salvador Juanpere

Gli strumenti dell’arte


Del 23 de febrer al 15 d’abril de 20006 (Volart)

Del 15 de juny al 15 de setembre de 2006 (Can Mario)



Art often ends up closing in on itself and artist themselves think that there is nothing beyond it. But as Saramago observed with literature, art is only “a part of life, of time, of history, of culture, of society; nothing else”. In the same way that thing continually happen in life, so “the expression of what we feel and think, which can be literary, musical, pictorial, philosophical or of some other type, is the way we have of externailising our everyday hopes, certainties, doubts and ideas”. I think that Salvador Juanpere, like Saramago with his priority for human beings, concentrates on these connections between life and art as his working material.

The project ..Gli strumenti dell’arte originates from this same phrase from the poem Scherzo by Leopardi. It is a point of reflection on the concern of the artist with the processes of construction in his own art and methodology. Leopardi also says in Zibaldone that “il dilettare è l’ufficio naturale della poesia” since poetry can be useful in an indirect way, “come le scure può segare, ma l’utile non é il suo fine naturale”.

The artistic attention of Salvador Juanpere, at least for the last five years, has focused on the creative process as a type of shelter from the process itself and also on reflections provoked by the activity to which he has dedicated his life. They concern the connections between life and art; the permanent transit around everything we do and that balance which places us between the physical (the instruments) and what we want to represent (science, space, the influence of art etc). The art of doing becomes another instrument which helps us interpret, know and understand the world. At the same time it is a necessary conduit for receiving simulation.

What does his artistic attention propose? More than a presence it offers the possibility of existence, because for him art situates itself as an event “beyond his communicable and constructive experience”. And it provides us with a double reading. The space of refuge –the workshop as a sealed capsule where we give time to our things and feel the need to live –and also the everyday- the things we have at hand and can imbue with the status of an art-work. In the end, he gives visibility, or an aura, to thought, to ideas more than their actual formulation, and speaks to us of “the space that could lie within our territory of needs” in a blind and contradictory world that is organized for and by the sense of seeing, as Saramago put it in his Essay On Blindness. A world made for eyes, incapable of comprehension beyond the material, and so lacking sense.

…Gli strumenti dell’arte refers to an extension of the body, a series of elements which become prosthesis of the need to do and end up being embodied in facts. While there is more and more of the conceptual in his work, there also exists the need to manipulate, work on and elaborate. Artistic work, as a reason for living emerged in Nel mezzo del camin a couple of years ago when he turned fifty and meditated on his personal creative process, on the fragmentation of a life and career which is in fact a single work. A date which was of only symbolic significance, but useful for pausing at and viewing the past as the visible progression of a passionate world in which we often have the sensation of following dependent on a single interior force whitout external stimuli. It is a point persistence, force of will, solid resistance where new possibilities are forever arising and everything gradually acquires meaning. That slowly pushing ourselves which allows us to recognise the things we can still say and do, a latent space which changes of register that found its metaphor in the engine of his car.

Since this train of thought which included folly, resistance, order, progression, silence to be broken, since that engine which was the end of the exhibition and at the same time its start, since his own journey, the enterprise of Salvador Juanpere’s life has been made real through these instruments of art. Instruments which are implied and refer to his tools and referents, and his method; a mental journey embodied in his journal, a place where he unloads in his journal, a place where he unloads both day-to-day life and the processes of his thought. This project moves at different speeds and becomes the ground where the multiplicity of humankind is worked; light, portable, both quick and slow.

We can see the first evocation and absence of work in the installation Instruments. It reproduces in wood, as though it were a real sculpture, all the most commonly found tools of his craft, notably electric drills, saws and polishers. The shelving is used to display them and scattered on the floor are fragments of marble off-cuts left over from previous works. The aim is to set up the idea of a frontier between what is and what is not, since the spectator is confronted with an obstacle, the absence of a work in which only the tools ant the residue are left on the view; that which we use to work and the traces of what we do, while the actual piece is somewhere else.

This implied and absent content, based on the complicity found through works of reference, is also evident in the installation Els continents. Here the gaze of the spectator meets another frontier of containers, as if they were packaging boxes, continents of sculptures that, like a geographer, position us on a possible map which stretches from the time of modernity to most recent art. The inexistent content evokes those works which interest him or are related to an aspect of his own oeuvre. A head of Picasso by Gargallo from 1934, or other sculptures referring to Anselmo, Cragg, Manzoni or Beuys, could all be inside the containers which give support and protection. But these virtual containers are sculptures in their own right and do not allow us to discern the character of their contents.

Wooden packaging units that could be used for transporting art works suggest a delineated space, that of their own presence in the world, but the idea of the container also holds the memory or spirit of each one of those works. The inside always corresponds to real dimensions and the evocation, in this case, is made by the original title and the year, written in felt letters –a protective material often used by Beuys- positioned on the floor or on top of the containers. This reconsideration of made objects leads us to reflect on the virtual when we are presented with only the space and the time they occupy within the history of art.

Latent space is the origin of everything. The blank page in his diary, the immense potential of which shapes errors and doubts, becomes another installation, La textualitat. Salvador Juanpere tells us that the work we produce is not as important as the moment in which we live or the recording of the mood at the moment of making it. It is the quick idea jotted down in the notebook which ends up becoming a physical object, in which the image of the text does the work of recalling a mental image. Here the virtual resides in the importance of the project, in the possibility of capturing ideas as poetic instruments, in the transformation of text as visual thought. His thoughts become three-dimensional and are present as sculpture since they are parts of the process of exhibition from their inception to their public presentation. Past and future, as the measure and doubt of a coexistence, an equilibrium, also find their metaphor in the wedges of Greek marble which are used to level the wooden structures on which the texts rest.

These three installations are complemented by others which are all metaphors for the sculptural process, in which irony appears as the backdrop to a dialogue between the everyday and cultural sedimentation. The biblical reference to money lending In La persistència del fang or the stolen idea we see in Furts, are a nod to Ortega y Gasset’s words “God put beauty in the world for it to be stolen”.

On May the 17th 1989 Salvador Juanpere described sculpture as “a metaphor between density and nothingness, a paradox between particle physics and Pygmalion, a trap set between the frontier of materials and the immensity of dreams”. He manages to “naturalise the trick of playing the film backwards”, because he gives us the instruments with which to dream the possibility of existing by absence and he alerts us to an important fact which Saramago observed in those eyes which, although seeing were blind to reason. We don’t need an outbreak of blindness because humanity see with eyes blind to intelligence and the artist has to push backwards to regain lost visibility; the capacity to feel and think. It doesn’t matter if we use Pessoa’s phrase “what in me feels is thinking” or Saramago’s paraphrase “what in me thinks is feeling”.


Note: the quotations in the text are from the author’s own words, a paragraph from Zibaldone by Leopardi and thoughts from Saramago’s The Statue and the Stone where he reflects on his books.

Glòria Bosch



From those Vestigis of the working process, which were exhibited in 1981 in the now closed Espai 10 in the Fundació Miró, up to the present day, Salvador Juanpere’s artistic trajectory has developed and evolved while expanding and becoming enriched in a natural and unaffected way. During this time he has cultivated new and old paths, opened up shortcuts and travelled along unfinished tracks, while shaping –as mentioned elsewhere- “a splendid sculptural parable on the passing of time, history (cultural, artistic and personal), a return to and acceptance of his own roots, a confirmation of his chosen path”[1].

From the very beginning, his art, his path, has moved between the contradictions (real or apparent) in his geographical space and his historical moment, between rural and urban culture, between agricultural and industrial environments, between Vilaplana and Barcelona, between the County of Baix Camp and the cosmopolitan, between personal biography and the history of art.

In those “vestiges” at the beginning of the Eighties there appeared stuck to surfaces of raw cotton, canvas or muslin –referring to typical supports used in painting- different traces of the working process which demonstrated these contradictions in a tactile and visual way. They could be mineral, vegetable or manmade. We could see how “pine needles and bran were mixed with fiberglass, hemps and broken seashells, earth and alabaster were mixed with oxides and perchlorates, natural pigments with manmade”[2].

Later, in the exhibition put on at the halfway point in his career[3], there was a private homage to common hands tools, to work tools in general and to the instruments with which we shape and build our own paths. On a small shelf on the wall was placed DIbuix d’una eina (1974/2003), a detailed and painstaking pencil drawing of a screwdriver drawn in March 1974 in the same building where it was then being exhibited;  the Museu d’Art Modern which had used to be the Tarragona art school. This piece was an emotive reference and sensitive homage to thirty years as an artist which coincided with his fiftieth birthday, a clear vindication and acceptance of the path travelled. It was also a homage to and recognition of a common and every day implement and to the tools of the sculptor, “gli strumenti dell’arte”. It is the tool which Juanpere recently duplicated in wood, turning it into a sculpture, a symbol of work, a three-dimensional icon of human creativity.  

Along the way, a long journey which started with painting and has ended up with the development of sculpture in its widest sense, the artist has produced a body of work of multiple meaning, multiple forms and multiple materials. A moving and suggestive oeuvre laced with references to history, science, the philosophy of science, as well as to art and artists, to personal and collective biographies, to objects, nature, land and the job itself.

He has left several way markers; Cub (1982) which brought together a simple and yet radical geometric abstraction with the residue of both natural and man-made materials. Also works in wood, for example Fulla, rasant i punxa (1985), made up of totemic images from the vegetables world. Or the now nonexistent Arrel amb triangles (1983), which created a dialogue –both disturbing and mysterious- between the organic, vital, twisted form of a pine tree root and the ordered and immaculate modulation of a series of glass triangles.

On the waysides of our country and the whole world, Juanpere has sited different objects; works in public places, pieces that give a permanent record of his passing through. Pieces such as Columna rostrata (1992), which signposts one of the turnoffs to the city of Tarragona. Or Nucli (1994), situated in Plaça dels Països Catalans in the city of Reus, which becomes a point of communication with villages deep in the County of Baix Camp. Or more recently the project Beyond (2003), a construction comprising of two large stone arrows set on metal trestles which, in distant Korea, point in the direction of Catalonia. Inscribed on the arrows in Korean is “Reus 1852” and “Vilaplana 1913”, references to the place and year of the birth of Antoni Gaudí and the artist’s father. It is both a monument to cultural diversity and metaphor for the knowledge of and curiosity for other cultures.

During this long and meandering journey the artist has filled several journals and notebooks with all types of texts, ideas, drawings, notes, sketches and proposals. The work Enclusa i dietaris (2003), recently awarded the first edition of the Palafrugell contemporary sculpture prize by the Fundació Vila Casas, makes a clear abstract and sculptural reference to those notebooks containing the seminal ideas and images for his pieces. It is an anvil reproduced in whitewashed wood on top of which are placed replicas, also white and immaculate, of each and every one of his journals completed since 1981. Motor-cor (2003) is another allegorical piece which is a paradigm of his artistic trajectory. It is a replica in wood of the diesel engine from his own car. It becomes a sculptural fiction, the simulation of a vital mechanism which, deprived of its function, is isolated in the exhibition room, the poignant echo of the beating of the artist’s heart within it. This motor/heart also becomes a symbol of a necessary element for travelling along any road, or any artistic or human journey.

Political comment and commitment have also been included, where necessary, on this journey. Teoria de catàstrofes (2002) was a poetical installation comprising of a text by Constantino P. Kavafis written out in fragile letters of mud scattered on the floor. They took part in a dialogue with glass and vinyl boards on the wall displaying the names of the 85 highly dangerous products which are produced in the petrochemical installations in Camp de Tarragona. Vestigia corylus avellana (1991) is a box in which is preserved a handful of hazelnuts, a local product from the Baix Camp. They represent the fruits of labour from the land, a land which his family had worked on for so long.

Looking back over the road travelled by Salvador Juanpere also brings to mind the four sculptural pieces grouped under the title Paradigma +-. “They introduce us to the world of ideas – that which in platonic theory is the prototype for the material world- to the world of physical paradigms, of everyday reality and of art in the world of uncertainties and paradoxes”[4]. They were entitled l’Escultura del joc de paradoxes, l’Escultura de l’absolut, l’Escultura fractal, and l’Escultura implicada.

In short, these are some of the thoughts and memories which arise when reviewing the path which the artist has opened up and built with his ideas, his sculptor’s tools, his feeling, his creative will and his works.  


Abel Figueres

January 2006.


[1] FIGUERES, Abel ; “Salvador Juanpere a meitat del camí”, Avui, 20 de novembre de 2003.

[2] FIGUERES, Abel; “Vestigis’ d’uns treball”, Avui, 4 de gener de 1981.

[3] Exposició “Salvador Juanpere: nel mezzo del cammin…”, Museu d’Art Modern, Tarragona, del 28 d’octubre al 30 de novmbre de 2003.

[4] FIGUERES, Abel; “L’art i els paradigmes”, Avui, 5 de desembre de 1996.