Layers is the title of the first solo exhibition by Angela de la Cruz at Galerie Thomas Schulte. In her works, de la Cruz puts the structural qualities of painting into question by liberating them from their two-dimensional existence. Canvases and stretcher frames are cut, torn, and broken for this purpose and emerge as objects that renounce the categorisation as painting. De la Cruz thus—literally and quite brutally—detaches the idea of the picture from its physical carrier as well as from tradition: 'The moment I cut through the canvas I get rid of the grandiosity of painting.'
The exhibition presents four large-format works in red/brilliant pink, ultramarine blue/light blue, titanium white/off white and cadmium yellow/light yellow. Each of them consists of three superimposed layers of canvas, each painted with a square and a border in one of the four colour combinations. In the same minimalist aesthetic, a small, simple portrait format hangs in ultramarine blue/light blue in the Window Space. Here too, the canvas falls wrinkled from the frame and reveals a further glossy layer, as if the canvas was constantly reproducing itself, renewing itself, healing itself; a simultaneous representation or a metamorphosis, so to speak, of the picture’s creation, which is conceptually significant for Angela de la Cruz.
But at the outset of every painting there is always a narrative, which is naturally also important in the conception of an exhibition. 'There is always a narrative when I approach my exhibition. I always think about a story or situation and then articulate my work in the space accordingly.' In regards to Layers at Galerie Thomas Schulte, de la Cruz says that the exhibition should feel like a 'party that was slowly fading, people leaving one by one'. As a reference she cites the film The Day of the Triffids, which is based on a post-apocalyptic science-fiction novel. With this series of works, she makes reference to the universal and individual, above all political uncertainty of our time. In this way, she provides a commentary on the current weakening of democracy in Britain.
Angela de la Cruz repeatedly emphasises the narrative quality that underlies her works, both in terms of her own life and in terms of objects such as used chairs and cupboards that she integrates into her works. This is also the case with the two brown painted sculptures made of hollow aluminium forms, which are also part of the exhibition. The angular boxes from her Crates series are bent, crushed, and interlocked. Placed atop the box is a chair with noticeable wear.
Within all her work there is a clear notion of tension and violence, contrasting the artist’s contemplative and meditative painting process. De la Cruz’s works thus become a representation of materiality and body, in motion between strength and fragility; between the beautiful and the broken, tension and relaxation. It is this dynamic that keeps the works moving in different ways. 'My work is an investigation, but I am not a scholar, I am an observer'. If one were to sit on the boxes, one could overlook the scenery from above.
Angela de la Cruz was born in La Coruña, Spain, in 1965. She lives and works in London. She studied philosophy at the University of Santiago de Compostela (1989) before she moved to London to complete a Bachelor of Arts at Goldsmiths College (1994) and a Master of Arts and Critical Theory at the Slade School of Fine Art (1996). Her work has been shown in institutional exhibitions such as at Centro Galego de Arte Contemporáneo (2019), Azkuna Zentroa, Bilbao (2018), Fundación Luis Seoane (2015), Camden Arts Centre, London (2010), Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo, Sevilla (2005), and Museo de Arte Contemporanea de Vigo (2004). De la Cruz was nominated for the Turner Prize in 2010 and received the Premio Nacional de Artes Plásticas, Spain, in 2017.
Press release courtesy Galerie Thomas Schulte.
On the occasion of her exhibition Layers at Galerie Thomas Schulte (26 October 2019 to 11 January 2020), Angela de la Cruz spoke to Louisa Elderton about her choice of a minimalist display mirroring the feeling of experiencing the end of a party when the guests are leaving and the feeling of being at the end of an era not knowing what's to come...