b.1986, El Salvador
Currently lives and works in Margate, UK
Studio Lenca (José Campos) fled his native El Salvador during the violent civil war in the 1980s. The war claimed the lives of over 80,000 Salvadoreños and displaced much of the population. José travelled to the US by land with his mother and grew up as an undocumented illegal immigrant.
Eventually settling in the UK, José received a Masters from Goldsmiths University of London in 2019. His work is collected and exhibited globally and was recently acquired by the MER Foundation.
His work is focuses on ideas surrounding difference, knowledge and visibility. José Campos works under the name of ‘Studio Lenca’ as the language of ‘studio’ refers to a space for experimentation and a place that is constantly shifting. Lenca refers to the ancestors of his native El Salvador.
His colourful paintings depict Salvadoran figures adorned with costume and ornament that playfully explore masculinity, the colonial past of the country and its current violent discourse. The hats and costumes allude to the folkloric traditions of Los Historiantes. MS-13 markings and 18th street tattoos are absent, instead whimsical imagery and bold colours portray a softer more vulnerable experience.
The figures in Studio Lenca’s work embody vignettes of the artist’s formative years, escaping the civil war and reckoning with his reality in a hostile environment.
The navigation of identity within Studio Lenca’s work sits in parallel with that of El Salvador and it’s neighbouring countries. Riotous layers of paint, flora, fauna, logos and artefacts represent untold stories and silenced voices. The painful legacy of colonialism, mass immigration and more recent cultural imperialism is writ large. Studio Lenca shares a maelstrom of unresolved narratives; himself and his culture displaced.