Juan Luis Cousiño, Jean Prouvost, 1972, private collection
One day in September 1996, entering the university in a quest for a drawing lesson to learn the business, the name of a workshop captured my attention: ‘Eos’, Greek goddess of the dawn. I felt the poetry in it, a horizon that intrigued and attracted me.
Entering Juan Luis Cousiño’s studio, I was grasped by the dynamic and the beauty of the nature rendered in his drawings. Starting work with him, I was both overwhelmed by this grace that I so wanted to achieve, and shaken by the rigour of the discipline and the path that would open up to me to access it. From failures to glimmers of light, drawing proved itself to be a rite of passage for me.
Today, he has not been gone for long, I have no words to express my gratitude for having received his teaching, which continues to nourish my research.
Faced with the Egyptian art of the Old Kingdom in the Louvre, Juan Luis Cousiño, Chilean painter–sculptor trained in Florence, was struck by the visual simplicity and a powerful angular structure, rendering the work timeless. He strived throughout his life to accomplish a symbiosis between figuration and abstraction, uniting the natural organic form and the stylised geometric form.
What made Juan Luis a master was this flame, this continually renewed ardour to transmit his skill, the fruit of a lifetime consecrated to art.
With hindsight and twenty years of daily practice, the three pillars of his teaching remain love, rigour and humility.
Juan Luis communicates love of nature, a means of sharpening the vision to learn to discern and translate the beauty of a simple apple, a landscape, a face.
Thanks to the knowledge of the Great Masters, he learned to capture the authenticity that a picture radiates in order to root a contemporary expression in the nursery bed of artistic heritage: the power of the Egyptian statues, the grace of the Greek statues, the audacity of the Romanesque tympanums, the intensity of Van Gogh.
This teaching is the fruit of a state of mind that welcomes the splendour of life and goodwill towards oneself as a ‘brave’ artisan of beauty.
Juan Luis Cousiño’s teaching is a school of rigour, where each drawing begun is taken as far as it can be. Thanks to the demanding nature of confronting what’s in front of you, that is to say of drawing from nature, it provides an internal structure. For the student, when Juan Luis said that a drawing was good, you knew it to be true, because how often he called for a drawing to be put back on the easel, just as he also did for his own!
This is only possible with humility, the third and fundamental pillar of his process. As he liked to remind us in his teaching and to all and everyone in his daily life, because Juan Luis lived and breathed his art every second, “The word ‘humility’ comes from the word ‘humus’, soil.” It is from soil that any fertile life is made possible.
As his wife once said, “It isn’t art that is part of your life, it is your life that is part of art.” I never felt more intensely the sensation of rubbing shoulders with the history of art, than next to he who I chose as guide.