Chilean painter of Spanish origin, born in Montesquiu (Catalonia) on January 20, 1927, one of the most representative figures of the Chilean painting during the second half of the 20th century. His work, very influential on generations of Chilean artists, stands out for its commitment to reality and the use of different languages and techniques of representation (painting with brush, roller, spray, collage).
Born in a small town close to Barcelona, during his childhood he used to paint the surrounding landscapes, influenced by the work of Catalan painters such as Santiago Rusiñol. The Spanish Civil war forced him, along with his family, to undertake the path of exile in 1939, first in France and then definitively in Santiago of Chile. In 1943 he began studies at the school of fine arts of the capital Center in which from 1945 received classes of Pablo Burchard, one of the leading figures in the Chilean arts and who exerted a great influence on Balmes. In 1950 he was appointed Professor of painting at the school of fine arts of the University of Chile, completed studies in France and Italy, and two years later he married with the painter also Gracia Barrios, daughter of the famous writer Eduardo Barrios. The couple shared vital and somewhat artistic career, since both were members, at the end of the fifties, the sign group, a generation of young artists who introduced the current informal in the plastic arts in the Andean country; Balmes, neighborhoods and the Group presented their innovative work in Spain, Museum of contemporary art of Barcelona, Darro Gallery in Madrid, and France, where he was awarded first prize at the Paris Biennale in 1961, as well as presented in the exhibition of art what Paris the following year.
Between 1966 and 1972 was director of the school of fine arts of Santiago, and in 1972-1973, Dean of the faculty. Politically committed to the Popular Unity Party of Salvador Allende, participated actively during his presidential tenure, forcing him into exile after the military coup of September 1973. Established in France, in 1974 he was appointed Professor at the University of Sorbonne, who served until 1991. In the mid-1980s could return to Chile, to again hold a teaching position at the Catholic University, which named him Emeritus Professor in 1993.
The hard experience of two wars, the Spanish and the world, and a bitter exile notably marked the career of Balmes, who from his first works, exile, the black night, had shown a deep sensitivity towards human and social issues. Nationalized Chilean since 1947, also eluded the social and political problems of their new country, although his painting had no borders where there is a human tragedy, injustice, or a struggle for freedom. One of his most famous works, Santo Domingo. May (1960), denounces the sad events that took place in this country; in this same line, is also remarkable peace, Viet Nam and Lota silence. From the trend informal typical of his generation, characterized by the use of mixed representation, Balmes has taken the expressiveness of his art to the ultimate consequences, in what he describes as a critical realism; This implies the use of all kinds of techniques and materials: from the spray paint to collage with annexes real objects to the canvas, such as photographs, nails, shovels, wood, shoes, etc.
His work has been exhibited in major museums and galleries in the world, including the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid, National Museum of fine arts of Santiago, the gallery Pierre Lescot in Paris, the Iberian Club Gallery of Bonn, the André Malraux Museum (France), Museum Wilfred Lam in Havana or the Palacio de Congresos of Paris. Among the many prizes and awards received, include the national prize of art in 1998, the order of merit Docente y Cultural Gabriela Mistral (1997), first prize at the Ibero-American biennial of art on paper (Buenos Aires, 1986), the Chilean Critics Award in 1984, the drawing first prize in the American biennial of art (Cali, 1971)Prize of honour of the official Salon de Santiago (1958) or the award of Honor in the living room of students of the school of fine arts (1946). In addition, Balmes has chaired the Association of painters and sculptors of Chile and since 1998, Creaimagen society for the rights of the copyright of the artist.