"I don't have a style... I have several, I alternate them and I alternate myselef between them. I draw, color, strike out, scrape,coat,darken and fill, I immerse myself in a "Kitchen of superposition" of sorts."
-JBP

Etchings of a Vivid Memory

Text reproduced with permission from Professor Guillermo Montero from the School of Fine Arts, Escuela de Bellas Artes de la Universidad de Costa Rica

Born in th Chilean port of Valparaiso in 1938, Bernal Ponce enrolled in Taller 99 (Studio 99) of the Universidad Catolica of Santiago, Chile whose members were noted for their spirit of experimentation, exploration of alternative mediums, and investigation of new techniques. As a young man, Bernal Ponce left Santiago for Paris, where he became a student of William Stanley Hayter's at the Academic Ranson and also enrolled in the Ecole des Beaux Arts.

Juan Bernal's constructivist approach -geometric compositions and pyramidally clustered houses- is also anecdotal in character, it reflects a sensitivity to a thousand details which cannot be reduced to generalities. Technically Bernal Ponce is most at ease as a draftsman. The line predominates in his conception of prints, and the accompanying color scheme is delicate and transparent, with an occasional use of chiaroscuro to create the necessary atmosphere. The line always remains the visual referent; it varies in weight and intensity, but the controlled action of the acid on the plate defines its qualities, setting it off against atmospheric spaces.

Although grotesque and contrasting caricatures of human types constantly spring up in his prints, the poetics of space form a more important element and the role of the figures is to affirm their environment. Thus, the geometric and metallic conquistador yields to the harmony of the pre-Columbian world's silent stones, and Neruda appears stuck in the crazy atmosphere of a cafe. His constant travels reveal a hidden anxiety, a wish to find a landmark, a beacon guiding him to his origins. Bernal Ponce's work, in sum, is a simultaneous exercise in memory and style and a constant effort to halt time.