Born in Viña del Mar, Chile, José “Nacho” Cartagena arrived in Canada in October 1976 as a political refugee during the Pinochet regime in Chile.
Nacho has developed a unique cork-based technique for which he has received high accolades from critics and the public alike. His artwork primarily depicts his interpretation of classic urban landscapes, acting as a visual autobiography and cartography, including his childhood in Chile, and other locations that have inspired his artistic development.
Most of his sculptures are held in private collections however he has presented his work at several exhibits both in Canada and internationally.
Most recently, Nacho was awarded the President’s Mention Award at the prestigious Florence Biennale in 2013, and both the People’s Choice and Honorable Mentions Awards at Visual Arts Mississauga exhibits in 2014, 2013 and 2012.
He currently resides in Canada.
Nacho arrived in Canada in October 1976 as a political immigrant after being exiled during the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile. By the age of 23, he had spent a year in prison, without being charged or standing trial and was displaced to a new home.
In exile, there is a constant process to find your place in a new place, to appreciate things around you while respecting the deep sadness for the life you once knew. This is reflected in Nacho's art – looking at his homeland, examining the time spent in prison, acknowledging his suffering.
Nacho's work represents the emotional conflict between the various phases in his life as a way to reconcile that one doesn’t have to choose between places, acting as a visual autobiography and cartography. The emotional narratives they contain are the basis of his work. They express my childhood in Chile, the torture and displacement suffered, the new life in Canada, and the new places that allowed him to cultivate his art.
His work has become an interesting collaboration of the past and present, textures, and cultural influences that have all come together in a harmonious and beautiful way. Simply speaking, Nacho's work depicts his interpretation of the classic urban landscapes of the places that hold a reminiscent significance for me. However, his work is anything but simplistic.
Born of necessity and ingenuity – and it has evolved to be his signature style that is unique. Space and cost limitations with traditional materials pushed him to develop a new technique where he creates three dimensional sculptures out of recycled wine corks. Cork is similar to wood – natural, with intrinsic beauty and each unique in texture and character. Cork takes on unique colouring due to the region and tree source, aging during the bottling process, and from the wine.
The very nature in which his pieces come together is a multi-layered and complicated method. Nacho painstakingly selects the right cork. Make precise incisions. Carefully place and layer each piece, one by one, patiently. It is a true labour of love to represent and interpret those emotions, places and things that hold significant for Nacho. His work expresses admiration, gratitude, warmth, light, darkness, sadness, and solitude as part of an emotional journey.