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Josep Cruañas was born in 1942 in Maià de Montcal, a small village in the region of la Garrotxa –Girona-. His interest in art leads him to attend drawing classes at the early age of 15 at the Art School of Banyoles under the direction of Joan de Palau. Three years later he visits regularly the studio of the painter Joan Sibecas in Figueres, who should become an essential person in his pictorial career. Sibecas was considered as one of the initiators of cubism in Catalonia although he also cultivated informal art in its spacial aspect dividing the canvas into fragments.
His formative career continues in Barcelona where he definitely settles in 1961 which permits him to attend painting-classes from nature at the Reial Cercle Artístic I Sant Lluc. Although he was considered an autodidact artist, it is evident that those contacts to drawing and painting studios served him as a starting point to take up, later on, what always had been his passion: painting.
In Barcelona he dedicates himself professionally to the world of publicity, working as a graphic designer which is a creative way to observe what is going on, not only in his direct environment but also sometimes beyond the proper daily reality. During those years, he combines publicity with painting until, in the beginning of the 70s, he enters definitely the world of painting when he has his first group exhibition at the Mundi Art Gallery in Barcelona and, one year later, the individual exhibition at the Ausart Gallery in Vic.
During the decade of the seventies he is interested in all the isms of the moment, that is, those which were close to him like abstraction, surrealism and expressionism. The fact that he maintains relations with artists like Frederic Lloveras induces him to move away from these tendencies inclining towards a more personal impressionism, like Lloveras himself, and tends to a more geometric and graphic style of painting, evidently without obviating the colour. When Jordi Rodriguez Amat is referring to Cruañas’ beginnings he points out that “he embraces a very personal representation of distorted urban spaces” where one observes even collapsed buildings, factories etc. Therefore, it is evident that his interest in urban spaces reveals itself since the very beginning and still is one of the principal characteristics in his works.
Now the moment has come to open up to the exterior and, therefore, he starts travelling throughout Europe. This allows him to get to know different places, unknown to him up to now, and represents new ways of understanding and captivating light and colour. He accompanies Lloveras on many of these journeys. Cruañas remembers discovering “northern landscapes, the range of grey shades and the lead-coloured skies” when he first visited London.
Normally, artists underlie certain influences, and in the case of Cruañas this is not an exception. Although he does not follow a very determined creative line, he belongs to impressionism. He considers himself as “heir of expressionism and of the opinion to let flow what comes out of me when I am painting”. Therefore, he prefers painters like Cézanne, Braque or Staêl, but also some of those close to him like for example Lloveras and Juan Alcalde.
But it is not until the 80s that he will find his own pictorial space, because until then he was more interested in the isms that predominated the 20th century like abstraction, surrealism and expressionism. This can be verified when he represents the urban landscapes of different port and maritime cities, especially in the north of Europe, product of his travelling spirit which allows him to observe, as many times affirmed, what only the artist himself is able to grasp what for the rest of the mortals goes unnoticed, like for example: the atmosphere, the mistiness, the nostalgia, the ambient …
One outstanding characteristic of Josep Cruañas is his participation in everything related to social gatherings and artists’ circles or, earlier, his relation to any type of person interested in cultural questions which serve to get an opinion on the art made in our country. It is well known that nowadays these talks do not take place frequently as there are other mechanisms to establish contacts and to get to know what is happening at any moment and any place.
Cruañas was one of the founders of La Cova del Drac, together with Lloveras, Vives Fierro, Barnadas, Morató Aragonés, Sanjuan, Griera, Siches, Rollán, R. Llovet, Agustín del Río and Sarsanedas, amongst others. He also turned up usually at the Penya La Punyalada, situated in the unfortunately disappeared restaurant of the same name on Passeig de Gràcia, where artists, critics, art dealers, collectors, art gallery directors etc. usually got together. He also formed part of the so-called Grup del Passeig de Gràcia consisting of the stem of artists of the Comas Gallery. All this indicates that he was always interested in the opinion of others. At the same time, this served him to surpass himself artistically and find out that it is possible to represent art, in this case painting, in many ways, all of them useful as long as they have the necessary quality and creativity.
More than three decades have passed since his first exhibition and in all this time he carried out more than a hundred individual and group exhibitions in Catalonia and in the rest of the State. His works were shown also in foreign countries like South Africa, Uruguay, Cuba, Malta, United States, Andorra and France. This indicates that the public and also the specialized reviewers value his work more and more.
An outstanding fact was his being invited to visit countries like Uruguay (1980) and Cuba (1995). Here, together with five other painters, he carried out a painting of large dimensions for the Hotel Nacional in Havana.
During the decade of the 70s and 80s he participated in different painting contests and won numerous prizes, to mention especially the XVIII International Award of Rapid Painting of Tossa de Mar (Girona) in 1974 and the “Francisca Salva” Prize within the Awards of the “Villa de Palamós” (Girona) in 1982. In 1994 the Town Council of his birth place Maià de Montcal honoured him with the title Illustrious Son of the village.
In 1993, the publishing house “La Gran Enciclopedia Vasca” published a book about his artistic career, within the Collection “Present Masters of the Catalan Painting and Skulpture”, being the authors Joan Carreras and Maria Elena Morató.
His works are present in museums and foundations like the Museum of the Deputy of Barcelona, the museums in the Girona region of Banyoles, Tossa de Mar and Palamós, the museum of Vendrell (Tarragona) or, in a foreign country, in the National Museum of Bulgaria.
In order to define his recent work we can affirm that he moves himself within impressionism with abstract connotations. His paintings transmit a special mistiness immersed in a very humid atmosphere. In the same way, the brushwork and the density of the palette as well as the chromatic intensity of the neutral shades with some chromatic highlight to emphasize a certain part of the composition are other characteristics which we think are essential in his work. With respect to the light, we appreciate more and more an interest to show scenes in which the brightness prevails over the idea of chiaroscuro. It is evident that the preponderant range of themes is the urban as well as the rural landscape. Sights of different places in Normandy, Paris, Cadaqués, Barcelona, Venice, Amsterdam or l’Empordà are habitual on his oil and watercolour paintings, two of the most applied techniques by the artist.
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