Jigger Cruz is a leading Filipino artist who has gained international acclaim for his tactile and sensorial paintings. Created by using techniques such as impasto, cutting, burning and spraying paint on the canvas and frames, Cruz's paintings are an investigation of the materiality of painting. At the same time, their subject matter—ranging from the burden of history to religion—addresses social and political concerns in the contemporary Philippines.Read More
Cruz's works often consist of two modes. The first, and the more overt, is his signature overpainting: thick layers of paint—brightly coloured, sometimes squeezed directly onto the canvas—that create rough three-dimensional surfaces. While this method creates an image, it simultaneously destroys the image; underneath the impasto lies another image, usually a portrait or landscape in the Western classical tradition. In some works, the original image survives Cruz's interventions; Depth from the Fall of Existence (2013), for example, shows the sitter's face mostly intact. In Censored Shadow (2014), however, the pool of colours obscures the original. Cruz's paintings, then, at once produce and destroy images.
By destroying the Western painting tradition as a way of creating his own, Cruz comments on the burden of history. As a contemporary artist, he faces the difficulty (or impossibility) of being truly original. As a non-Western artist, he also finds the Western art historical narrative inescapable in his practice. That Cruz does not completely obliterate the original images implies the inevitability of Western dominance.
Cruz's vandalism of Western traditions, however, is more advanced in other works. In Fairly, Heavily, Rainbow (2013), the edges of the frames appear to be eroded by Cruz's paint. The decay is well underway in Broken Sunday (2013), where the top of the frames and the original painting have effectively disintegrated. In this light, Cruz's vandalisation does not represent the status quo but heralds the marginalised art(ist) making its way into the Western-dominant art world.
The burden of history has also been considered in Cruz's sculptures. 'Metaphorical Suffocation' (2014)—one of his most well-known sculptural series—shows resin human figures covered with painted canvases. One sculpture is a grown man, who stands for the transition from past to present, and another an adolescent, who represents the shift from present to future. Under the weight of the painted canvases—Cruz's allegory for history—the figures are blind and in danger of suffocation. Yet 'Metaphorical Suffocation' embodies not helplessness but hope; their feet remain uncovered, and with their feet they may progress forward.
Similarly to his fellow contemporary Filipino artists, Cruz's artistic concerns extend to the social conditions of his homeland. He has particularly focused on Catholicism—the dominant religion in the Philippines. The silhouette in the centre of Masquerade (2015) resembles that of the Virgin Mary, while Silent Waltz from the Ancient Atoms of Hell (2015) contains references to heaven and hell.
Cruz graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Far Eastern University in 2007 and went on to study design at De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde. Select exhibitions include Smudging Dirty Little Touch at Albertz Benda, New York (2016); WASAK! Reloaded, an overview of contemporary Filipino art at ARNDT Fine Art, Singapore (2016); and SUBTRACTION PARADISE, a solo show at ARNDT Fine Art, Singapore (2015). Cruz lives and works in Manila, Philippines.
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