Eugènia Balcells

1943 | Barcelona, Spain
Eugènia Balcells — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Eugènia Balcells with her Album portátil [Portable album], 1993, jacket made of postcards, courtesy Eugènia Balcells Foundation

Spanish audiovisual artist.

A pioneer in experimental films and audiovisual art, Eugènia Balcells obtained a degree in architectural technology from the Universidad de Barcelona in 1967 and an MFA at the University of Iowa in 1971. She has lived in New York and Barcelona alternately ever since. She began making art in the mid-1970s in the context of the Conceptual Art movement. Her first productions, linked to social criticism currents of the day, concerned subjects such as consumer society and the effects of the mass media on popular culture.

Her Re-prise (1977) was the first of a series of pieces revealing the stereotyped images of women in advertising, movies and television. One outstanding example along these lines is Fin [End, 1978], presented in both a book format and as an installation comprising one hundred final panels selected from graphic novels intended mainly for women readers. There is also the film Boy Meets Girl (1978). A split screen shows, on the left, images of women, and on the right images of men, both moving quickly like the spinning rows of icons in a slot machine, briefly pairing to produce aleatory boy/girl combinations. The women look objectified and anonymous, while the men retain their individuality and status as subjects.

As the daughter and granddaughter of architects and inventors, since her earliest childhood E. Balcells’s environment was steeped in mathematics and visual references. She was fascinated by colour and perfect geometric shapes. In works like Fuga [Fugue, 1979], Indian Circle (1981) and From the Center (1982), she used the circle as a formal concept and description of the movement of a camera placed in the centre of the composition. Her vision of reality is based on this geometric precision. She also explored the limits of perception and the possibilities of electronic images in Color Fields (1984) and TV Weave (1985).

She has examined human beings’ confrontation with their own existence and interpersonal relations in works like En Tránsito [In transit, 1993] and Sincronías [Synchronies, 1995] and the coexistence of rational and irrational worlds in the installation Traspasar límites [Transcending limits, 1995]. Her work gives particular importance to the use of everyday objects, and examines the effects and meaning of light. Some outstanding examples of the latter are the installation Jardín de luz [Garden of light, 2003] conceived for the Ciutat Meridiana metro station in Barcelona, and the exhibition Años luz [Light years, 2012], Madrid, which can be understood as a hymn to the complexity of light and its ability to create life as it passes.

In addition to making art, E. Balcells has also given courses and led workshops in various educational centres and universities. The Spanish Ministry of Culture awarded her the Medalla de Oro al Mérito en las Bellas Artes in 2009. The following year, the Catalan Consell Nacional de la Cultura y de les Arts gave her its Premi Nacional d’Arts Visuals de la Generalitat de Catalunya. Her work has been shown in festivals, galleries and international museums.

Julia Fernández Toledano

Translated from the Spanish by Leo Stephen Torgoff.

A notice produced as part of the TEAM international academic network: Teaching, E-learning, Agency and Mentoring

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