Tang Contemporary Art is proud to present Paradigmal Traps, a solo exhibition by Filipino artist Jigger Cruz, curated by Michela Sena. This exhibition will feature both paintings and drawings by the artist, created in 2021.
Jigger Cruz returns with a body of work that challenges perception rendered in his signature style. Tubes of oil paint squeezed onto the canvas, spray painting and decisive, confident strokes create a rough and thick three-dimensional surface that meets in a grid of coloured lines, in a nervous tangle. Strips of colour overlap, travelling in parallel or intertwining, pushed by the artist's impulsive gesture.
While seemingly a struggle of colours and lines, the result of a passionate and energetic action, is generative of a new image, at the same time destroying the image which lays underneath. In fact, the dense, compacted, and impastoed surface, partially or totally, hides the figurative background which are normally, in Cruz' works, representations of subjects from Flemish or Renaissance art repertoires. Albeit frayed and mutilated, in some works, the original image survives his interventions, but at other times however, the realistic representation is completely distorted and destroyed, making it difficult to identify the initial subject.
Swept away by the artist's destructive force, the underneath image undergoes a sort of primitive expression of violent psychic energy, so overwhelming that the principle of death and life happen simultaneously. Like an equally primitive "fear of emptiness", his energy fills the whole canvas. The painting explodes, overflows from the frame's margins, covered with colour, sometimes burned and corroded.
Radically different from the 'painter', who is placed in front of the easel and delicately transfers minimal quantities of colour, Cruz relies on action as the essence of the creative process, like in a shamanic ritual; his proactive intervention on the canvas represents a complete, involving and all-encompassing artistic practice.
Deliberately playing with the ideas of disfigurement and vandalisation through his thick oil layers and colour tangles, Cruz reviles and destroys those familiar images painted on the background, making the destruction an integral part of his art aesthetic understanding. Cruz' assemblages of recognisable objects and dark forms, intertwining into each other, lead to a reflection on the very matter of painting. Encrypting linearity, his tangled coloured vortexes decipher the paths of a new mapping, unhinging the universally accepted culture's fixed points. Thrown into a dizzying displacement, oriented by new cardinal points, the observer loses any known landmarks, and finally embraces new alternative ways of perception.
Such a dense, energetic process gets many layers to its conception. And while Cruz' decisive actions are the translation into art of his dissent versus the common sense and an obvious way of reading reality: his intense energy also arises from the reaction to a specific cultural environment. Like many Filipino artists of his generation, Jigger Cruz carries the burden of a cultural complex deriving from domination and colonisation. His concerns extend to the social conditions of his homeland particularly on Catholicism, the dominant religion in the Philippines.
His gesture can be seen as a reaction to the dogmatic vision imposed by the colonisers centuries ago, and that moulded and was the premise for many of the conflicts and contradictions of Filipino contemporary society. Cruz cancels with his gestural painting and 'colonises' the icons of Baroque culture. Obscuring and canceling the whole painting space, he erases the symbols of a culture, which perpetuated its universal supremacy.
The obsession of his signs extends far beyond the frame, slipping into a fractal collapse and to infinity. Endlessly reiterating its power, Cruz' refusal extends towards any pre-imposed culture and becomes a protest against any blind truths - the rejection of colonial culture's imposition corresponds to the rejection of any bourgeois culture's dogma.
At the same time, if destroying the Western traditional subjects is Cruz' way to comment on the weight of history, from another point of view, it represents his struggle of detaching himself from Western art, which with its historical narrative is inevitable in his practice. Significantly, Cruz does not completely erase the original images.
Still his gesture and his act of rebellion function as a statement that breaks the rules of traditional art. Cruz' operation is the premise of a cathartic renewal, passing through subtraction and abstraction, becomes an action of self-affirmation. The result is the genesis of a germinating chaos leading to unveiling a new reality. In being cathartic, his pictorial denial has become almost a religious ritual for the artist.
This exhibition, continuing Cruz's latest developments, features a colour palette subtly desaturated, almost tending to cool tones, which smoothly depart from the artist's typical use of bold, vivid colours. From the original aim of producing contrasts and shock, Cruz' palette guides us into a more discreet and minimalist atmosphere, perhaps turning from an explicit dialectic with the external world towards an introspective dimension. Smoothly flowing onto a reflection on his own aesthetic, a more self-referential phase, he makes blunt the original vehemence, allowing his art the state of a statement, still questioning itself to find its own relevance.
Press release courtesy Tang Contemporary Art.
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