Embracing the Unknown

Published March 26, 2018, 12:05 AM


Embracing the Unknown by Hannah Jo Uy

Images by Pinggot Zulueta

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“A collection of recycled ideas from the history of painting,” said Jigger Cruz when asked to describe his artistic philosophy. Spontaneity plays a pivotal role in the creative approach of Cruz, who is considered a resilient emerging voice in the local art scene, as he continues to make waves in the Philippines, as well as abroad with works featured in notable public collections, such as in The Dikeou Collection, Denver, CO; Saatchi Collection, London, UK, and Tiroche de Leon Collection. This extemporaneous manner of Cruz undoubtedly adds a layer of authenticity to the artist’s oeuvre, which he further elaborated upon by saying that he inevitably “falls into the process of problem solving and focuses more on building possibilities like a puzzle.” “My self-conscious examination of technique and balance,” he said, “is to forget and break it.”

Striking the balance between playful banter with the paint and canvas and a thoughtful and deliberate process of creation, Cruz has a knack for developing something meaningful out of what others may deem to be unintelligible—all with a sense of humor. Essentially, Cruz purports visual pieces that refuse to be neatly catalogued in a simplistic manner, yet his approach, being organic, is primal and as natural as it can be. Most recently, Cruz was speaking against the backdrop of the opening of his latest show at Albertz Benda Gallery entitled “Jigger Cruz: Picture Towards the Other Side,” in the United States, and reportedly his largest, most ambitious yet.

As an artist, Cruz is known for incorporating various mediums in his works, rarely settling on one. “Using various mediums makes the process more interesting,” he said, “and it gives multiple dimensions to my creations. Every single medium has its own character, challenging us to use them properly and inappropriately.”

Having studied Fine Arts at the Far Eastern University in the Philippines and Design at De La Salle-College of St. Benilde, Cruz is well versed with regard to formalistic approaches. Invariably drawn to abstract art, however, Cruz shared that there are a number of ideas that helped encourage his shift from analysis of form and image, from formal stylistic development. “Painting is always there,” he said. “I want to be more loose and careless. I’m focusing on sculptures and found objects. I find them more challenging and intimidating. It requires a lot of aesthetic rhythm to manifest my personal relevance to the subject and material.”

Cruz rarely ventures to define his work, particularly in his recent paintings, choosing instead to surrender himself to the process. “I always start painting by laying out the canvas around me,” he said, “and putting random forms and textures on each of them.” Providing an amusing yet apt metaphor, Cruz said that, for him, painting is “like eating breakfast in the morning without having any idea what’s next for lunch.” “I just stopped thinking too much about complexities with the context and make it more spontaneous as it can be,” he stressed.

Reflecting on his oeuvre, Cruz says that putting himself in the shoes of an outsider when looking at his new paintings, he is able to dissect it layer by layer. “The more I don’t understand,” he said, “the more I like it.” Challenge, Cruz said, is always there in every single work. “We grow and we fall,” he stressed, “but the greatest fear is when we reach the dead end and there are no more doors to open.”

Commenting on the local market from his experience, Cruz expressed optimism at the Philippine art scene. “I can see the stabilization of the market and institutions that support the present and the future direction of the scene,” he said. “So many good young artists are getting more visible to the local and international stage.”

Cruz added that there is much room for improvement by way of greater appreciation and focus on the past. “We have so many great artists from the ’90s, ’80s, and ’70s that need to be recognized,” he said. “Some of them have contributed a lot to the history of Philippine art and culture. They were the heroes of the future.”