Juan Antonio Guirado Espinosa, of Spanish and Australian nationality, one of 7 children, was born on the 22nd of August in Jaen, Spain.
Raised in his hometown, Guirado commenced his art training at the young age of 10, attending the Jose Nogue School of Art, formerly known as the School of Arts and Crafts of Jaen, where he studied creative drawing.
Whilst living and working as an apprentice to muralist Joaquin Segarra in 1946, Juan Antonio Guirado attended the renowned San Fernando Royal Academy of Arts, where he studied portraiture with the Sevillian master, Baldomero Romero Ressendi.
At the age of 18, he trained to be a bullfighter in Madrid. Although he never pursued this career further, this Andalusian tradition, the bull and the 'matador' in particular, became the subjects of some of his early artworks.
Two years later he traveled to Italy and Paris in order to study the works of the Masters of the Renaissance and the French Impressionists, furthering his pictorial and artistic skills.
Through his extensive study of the creative arts, Guirado developed a classical yet wide artistic palette and range. His technique and painted mediums varied from mural painting (he traveled to New York in 1955 where he was commissioned to paint a series of murals) to portraiture, landscapes and still life studies.
“When a painter such as Guirado possesses a palette that is chromatically distinct and a firm palette knife, he can be called a master. Therein lies the essence of any master painter of our time.”_
In the mid-1950s, whilst Juan Antonio Guirado was sketching the Cuchilleros Arch in Madrid, he met an American couple, who after seeing his studio and being extremely impressed by his works purchased several of his paintings at 80 times the value that he has previously received. This eventful meeting lead to his first breakthrough exhibition at the Soler Gallery in The Fontainebleau Hotel, Miami Beach, opening new borders for the young artist on an international level.
With a newfound artistic confidence and due to the growing social and political unrest in Spain which constrained free artistic expression, Guirado made the bold decision to migrate to Australia in 1959, a trip he believed will help him find his path and inner calling as an artist.
His initial experiences in Australia led him to discover Oriental mysticism. Through this discovery, he delved into the Vedanta, one of the six orthodox systems of Indian philosophy, which greatly inspired his signature style. His work in Spain had been traditional in the form of portraits and landscapes, but it was in Australia that his work evolved quite radically from realism, impressionism, and expressionism to surrealism, abstraction, and a style later to be referred to as Intrarealism. The spirituality that he finds here comes from the “closeness to the earth [ . . .] which in his view [. . .] is still so much part of the country and people.”_ It also forms the basis of his visions which are depicted in the paintings that define his unique style and his chosen vessel of expression with which he conveys his vivid and almost prophetic depictions of what he perceives as our inevitable future to come. Yogi Ramiro Calle describes Guirado’s work:
Juan Antonio Guirado's work is endless in its content. It reflects countless changes that can never leave us unaffected. A single fragment of his paintings is a sub-painting where human beings are the great protagonists who are shown in their utmost minimal expression, and when magnified can be seen entering the mystery of life towards spiritual calm. Guirado is a painter of tantric and Jvedantic nuances. A tantra, as it is well known, is a Hindu-Buddhist creation whose final reality is the Divine Mother or Feminine Power. This explains why in many of his paintings we can observe his critique of the constant chaos that is human injustice. Desertifications, famine, malice, an exodus of the masses to unknown places, are all reflections of our reality. They are like pages in the book of our lives that try to warn us about the disaster that draws closer and he makes us aware of it so that we can use the power of the universe constructively and creatively. ‘In the beginning, only I existed, and from my energy, the cosmos was manifested, said Brahman in the Vedas. A while ago, Guirado discovered some books in Australia about the Vedanta philosophy that stipulates unity in everything, where nothing is finite or infinite. Guirado delved in it, reflected upon it, and as if it were a command, painted it, thus initiating the kind of painting that is full of spirituality and metaphysical reality. Intrarealism. With his intrarealist paintings, Guirado gives power to what I could call ‘intravision’ or the vision of the self. By contemplating his magnificent paintings, one develops, even without noticing, a reflection of the self, that which represents the meaning of consciousness._
Between 1961 and 1974, Guirado exhibited in many of the most prestigious venues in Sydney, including the St. Yves Gallery, the Red Rose Gallery, the Campbell Gallery, Studio 4, El Dorado, the Craftman’s Gallery, the Douglas Gallery and the Sebert Gallery at the Argyle Center, as well as the Roundhouse at the University of New South Wales.
Whilst based in Sydney, Guirado was also commissioned to paint reproductions of the Spanish masters as well as his own work for the Spanish Club on Liverpool Street. In 1966, Guirado completed his first important private commission, a painting of Pope John Paul VI for the Australian Cardinal Gilroy's private collection.
In 1970, returning briefly to Madrid, Guirado held an exhibition in the capital’s Cultart gallery. Due to public demand, this exhibition that was originally scheduled for three weeks was extended to six weeks. With this exhibition, Guirado sought to introduce his work to audiences in Spain, revealing his new style inspired by the years that he lived in Australia. It received wide coverage in magazines and on television, including the production of a documentary film about him and his work.
In an interview entitled, "This Spaniard's Art" by Patricia Johnson, and featured in The Australian Women's Weekly in 1970, Guirado reveals, the “colors that [he] used in Australia compared to those used upon his return to Madrid were radically different. My pictures in Australia were full of light, and I used colors such as blue, white and yellow. In Spain all my pictures were in shades of brown and grey.
Within the same year, Guirado also held an exhibition at the Fedelta gallery in Rome, Italy, and his paintings were featured in the Malta National Museum of Fine Arts, Valletta, Malta. Towards the end of 1970, Guirado returned to Australia to exhibit at the Craftman’s Gallery in Sydney.
In 1973, Guirado’s work began to move away from the figurative towards the surrealist-futurist, using more subdued, neutral colours, and seldom more than three on one canvas. He attributed these works to the violent climate and the tragedy of war. “Man is becoming internally fragmented, unsure, looking for something better inside himself, a sense of unity leading towards a better state of life.”
During this year, Guirado decided to move back to Europe with his family, settling initially in Madrid, a year later in Los Villares near Jaen and in 1975 in London, United Kingdom. With Dame Françoise Tempra, the art historian and gallery director, acting as Guirado’s agent, he began his prolific exposure in Europe and the USA.
Milton fed our imagination with oneiric critic visions centuries ago. It is around 1924 that in pictorial terms such visions found a ‘home’, a school to which they could officially be ascribed, which was a great comfort to art historians. Not that we could altogether forget that artists like Hieronymus Bosch existed earlier, but it was during that year that from his ‘surrealistic experience’, André Breton defined, and in doing so, initiated a movement called ‘surrealism’ which anchored itself deeply in the History of Art of the 20th century. Half a century later, presenting the works of Juan Antonio Guirado, a kaleidoscope of visions assault my mind, from the works of Salvador Dalí and Max Ernst to those of Pedro Pacheco and yet I must confess to be confronted with tremendous originality… His technique is superbly sensual for his oils have the fluidity of watercolours in their silky, tactile quality and yet the contours of his visions have the definite, highly contrasted accuracy of the early masters of chiaroscuro.
Between 1974 and 1980, Guirado exhibited his work in London at the Sixty One Gallery, the Sloane Street Gallery, the Spanish Club, Canning House (on a number of occasions), and Casa de España (Spanish House), the latter, which was inaugurated by the Spanish Ambassador, Marquis of Perinat. Guirado also exhibited at the Aljaba gallery in Jaen, Spain.
In 1976, the Spanish Museum of Contemporary Art in Madrid acquired one of his paintings, which currently belongs to the permanent collection of the Reina Sofia Museum, and his work was praised by the museum’s Director Carlos Arean. This year marked one of the busiest for Guirado, in terms of his artworks dissemination. He held a preview at the National Museum of Fine Arts, Valetta, Malta, where he featured his works at the Semana de Arte Contemporáneo. Guirado was also invited to exhibit at Venice’s 1976 Exposición Internacional Grolla D´Oro de Treviso, where out of 150 Italians, only 50 foreigners participated. Juan Antonio Guirado won the gold medal, a triumph for Spanish artists.
In France, he exhibited at Le Touquet Palais de l’Europe, Paris-plage, the Quentovic, the Calais Museum and the Centre Français d'Art in Paris. The latter exhibition entitled, L’Essentialisme/ Essentialism featured works of other renowned fellow essentialist artists, such as Drago Marin Cherina and Sixte Blasco. The Essentialist movement was conceived in 1972 and is rooted in impressionism, abstraction, futurism, and surrealism. During this time Guirado explored not only Essentialism as a whole, but also Intrarealism as a subject matter, exploring elements of realism and symbolism and depicting apocalyptic worlds. Later that year he also exhibited at the Chicago International Trade Expo in the United States.The following year, in 1977, Guirado held another Essentialism exhibition at the National Museum of Fine Arts, Valletta, Malta. His European tour continued, with exhibitions in Italy and Switzerland. In 1978 Guirado was invited by the Spanish Ambassador to exhibit at the Ramada Hotel in Geneva, Switzerland.
The following year, in 1977, Guirado held another Essentialism exhibition at the National Museum of Fine Arts, Valletta, Malta. His European tour continued, with exhibitions in Italy and Switzerland. In 1978 Guirado was invited by the Spanish Ambassador to exhibit at the Ramada Hotel in Geneva, Switzerland.
After living abroad for 22 years, Guirado decided to return to his home in Spain in 1981. In the following decades, Guirado progressively eschewed the art world. Perhaps more prolific in his art, he immersed himself in his work due to his pure passion for it but choose to no longer actively promote himself. His paintings increasingly become consumed by his visions and a sense of moral responsibility; depicting scenes of environmental catastrophes, man’s insistent greed, overindulgence and the decay of all moral sensibilities. These are some of the themes his paintings highlight during this period.
In 1986 Guirado again lured away from his hometown, this time traveling to the volcanic landscapes of Lanzarote, located in the Canary Islands. In 1986, he exhibited at the Hans Agolani Gallery in an exhibition entitled ‘Oasis of Nazareth’, and in 1988 at La Galeria, Teguise, both situated in Lanzarote.
In 1989 Guirado was invited to exhibit at CajaSur's 125th Anniversary, held at the Miguel Castillejo Cultural Centre, currently know as the ‘Sala de Exposiciones’ of CajaSur in Jaén. Following this very successful exhibition which attained wide attention and press coverage, Guirado’s work was once more shown in London in 1990, at The Cathedral Museum Committee, in an exhibition entitled, ‘Venice: Enchantment and Inspiration’.
Finally, in 1996, he exhibited at the Veraestilo Gallery in Vera, Almeria, Spain, organized as part of the 1st International Arts and Crafts Fair in Mojacar. At the inauguration of the exhibition, the journalist and art critic, Manuel Quintanilla, launched a monograph based on Juan Antonio Guirado entitled, Juan Antonio Guirado, The Contemporary Andalusian Painter.
Two years later, in 1998, Guirado once again partook in the Malta International Art Biennial, held at the National Museum of Fine Arts located in Valletta, Malta. In 1999, Guirado held an exhibition at the Espacio 109 in Mojacar; and in 2000, another exhibition at the New Delfos Gallery, also located in Mojacar, Spain.
Guirado was as versatile in his brushstroke as he was in character. As a testament to his beliefs, he becomes involved in the local political party ‘Mojacar 2000’, and from 1999 to 2007 he also collaborated with the regional newspapers El Indálico and Noticias del Levante, adopting the role of art critic and political contributor by drawing satirical cartoons targeting the failures of Spanish politics. The Cartoons depicted various political figures as vultures and crows conversing with each other. Guirado was critical of all political parties such as the Partido Popular, Partido Socialista, UCD and CDS. He lambasted the lack of progress, transparency, and equal opportunity and yet his empathy towards the unfettered and community-based life was evident as he was often found playing flamenco guitar, singing and drinking with the local gypsies.
Despite his increasingly reclusive life, Guirado retained his passion for the arts and on occasion continued to promote this. In 2000, with the support of the Mojacar town hall, Guirado founded the Plaza del Arte (Art Square) with a few other local artists. This group of artists, predominantly from Mojacar and the Almerian Levant, gathered every Sunday evening to exhibit their work, paint and share ideas.
In 2001 Guirado was honored at the Malta Art Biennial for his prolific body of work. 105 countries are represented at the exhibition, with more than 110 artists who are selected by the President of the Maltese Biennial and the Centre for Visual Arts, Dame Françoise Tempra. That year he exhibited once again in Spain for CajaSur at the Miguel Castillejo Cultural Centre in Jaen. In 2003, he held his last exhibition, entitled Intrarrealismo, at the Manolo Rojas gallery in Madrid. In 2004 Guirado was reported to be opening a gallery in Mojacar, which would have been named La Medina and would have exhibited his works and that of other collaborative local artists, however, this project never came to fruition.
Throughout his extensive international career and over 54 years of working as a professional artist, Guirado’s works have been collected by personalities such as King Hussein of Jordan, Catherine Dickens, J.D. Salinger, Cardinal Gilroy, Art Critic Manuel Quintanilla, Pedro Gilabert, Robert Galstian, Walter Schindler & John Schlesinger, to name a few. Additionally, Guirado’s works have been either featured or donated to several museums across the globe, including the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid, Malta National Museum of Fine Arts in Valletta, Malta, Casa Museo Gilabert in Arboleas, Spain and The Quentovic Calais Museum in France.
Press attention around Guirado’s artistic legacy has been wide and prolific but perhaps one of the most poignant critiques entitled, ‘Arte y Misterio’, was written by the journalist Manuel Portillo Lopez where he states;
"Guirado has been described as the painter of the 21st century by a London magazine. We always find new facets in his creations, new images, which combined with an elaborate juxtaposition of forms transport us to a hidden world that is full of complexities, philosophical and metaphysical concepts that clash with this materialistic and harsh society where stupidity is manifested in an extravagant and contradictory way. Thus the fight for the hidden aspirations of our heart, where material forms are transmuted like a vital force, resulting in absolute existence. There is no doubt that Guirado's paintings convey his thoughts on the social problems that affect the world. He is a painter that is deeply engaged with his time, whom confronts today's reality of endless instability, which is the product of psychological and spiritual contamination. His art is an attitude, an internal feeling that informs us about the phenomena that lie beneath reality and hide behind his experiences."
When asked how he would describe his own painting, Guirado replied “I would describe it as Intrarealist painting. It is the type of painting that one has to see with the third eye, the eye of the mind.’’
Guirado passed away from cancer in July 2010 at the Inmaculada de Huércal-Overa Hospital, one month short of his 78th birthday. His visionary legacy continues through the work of his daughter, Catalina Guirado, and The Guirado Estate.
My father was a painter influenced by Eastern philosophy whose work tries to reflect the anger, hunger, and desperation in mankind. His visionary work seems to align with the prophecies of 2012. He was mainly concerned with the end of a cycle in the history of civilization. Like most essentialists, his painting was subjected to a radical purification and he succeeded in crossing the frontier between realism and visionary realism. Much of his work revolved around a tunnel of white light, of immaculate purity and infinite length, with rows of people heading towards that final mystery. It is the tantra that inspired him to be honest with himself whilst relating to the past and present to forecast the future. It is for this reason that his work contains the mysteries and doubts that all human beings carry inside them. In summary, my father was a fusion of both the Renaissance and the Surrealist world. Catalina Guirado, 2011.