In advance of the long-awaited retrospective which opens in the Espai Volart of the Vila Casas Foundation on 24 January, Joan Prats Gallery has added to the commemoration of the tenth anniversary of Josep Guinovart (Barcelona, 1927–2007) with an exhibition which accentuates the more subtle and poetic aspects of the artist.

A decade after his decease, it is clearer than ever that the highly prolific work of Guinovart need to be reviewed, and that in the latter years of his life he had a significant presence in exhibition spaces.

Josep Guinovart, S/T, 1978.

Despite that, however, as a result of his heterodox and excessive spirit, the work of this artist, who was central in the postwar scene in Catalonia, deserves new eyes, new focusses and new interpretations.

His position as a central figure in Catalan Informalism, mainly as a result of the importance of the subjects that appeared in his work, does not detract from the fact that Guinovart has an unmistakeable mark, closely linked to nature and the land, which makes him unique. Guino was passionate about art and driven by his passion he became a natural explorer who never toed the line either in the formal research or social commitment. He did work with matter, but Guinovart could also be as pop as Rauschenberg, conceptual or even a graffiti artist.

Josep Guinovart, 1980-5, 1980.

These aspects stand out clearly in the exhibition at Joan Prats, the gallery with which Guinovart was always closely connected. The exhibit is also reminiscent about his relationship with the gallery, specifically his first exhibition there in the spring of 1979 which ran simultaneously with two others: the neighbouring (and now non-existent) Trece gallery, and Matèria-suport-estructura at the Joan Miró Foundation.

Josep Guinovart, S/T, 1978.

The decade from 1975 to 1985 was crucial for the work of Guinovart, particularly in his use of clay as an essential material which acted as a base in support of the painting, bringing with it the earthy colours that are so often associated with the work of this painter. A trip to Algeria and Morocco at the end of 1976 was decisive for Guinovart’s inclusion of clay and the popular architectural forms of the desert in his work, connecting everything rural and arid with the language that he had already established, especially from the influence of the lands of Agramunt. The north-African landscapes, which were as Mediterranean as the Catalan ones, reinforced the formal features of Guinovart’s work. Having said that there is not a single work in the exhibition which lacks the splendid blue of the Mediterranean Sea, a colour which he said he had never seen before and would never see again.

a fantasy world of paper and cardboard cuttings, blots and sand emerge.

If the clay and the blue, mixed with sand and seeds, bring a poetic component to Guinovart’s landscape, it is the series of twelve small-format works which takes this refinement to the extreme. Very rarely seen until now, in these works Guinovart sketches a simple spiral block from which a fantasy world of paper and cardboard cuttings, blots and sand emerge. These are the little gems of this exhibition, along with others made of crinkled paper. The contrast between these small pieces and a work made of fibre cement –as dangerous as it is spectacular and crude, which is exhibited in the large room of the gallery, is proof of the free spirit of Guinovart and of his open and contradictory poetics.

Guinovart. Erupting Matter: 1975-1985 can be seen in the Joan Prats gallery in Barcelona until February.