An encounter with a Jigger Cruz painting inexorably signifies an encounter with artifice. Cruz’s works convey an astute, circumventing ploy aimed at redefining ideas surrounding painting while contesting the definition of the medium.
Painting as object is subject to critical analysis, and is at the same time laden with critical ideas. It therefore becomes both tool and vessel for criticality, especially in Cruz’s works, whose paintings achieve the status of both medium and object: a medium wherein surface can be demolished, and an object whose phenomenon can be re-constructed. Painting therefore exists, then, for him, a surface of images as well as an image to destroy.
Cruz’s paintings are enigmas, whose complexities are forged through his attempts at retrieving the balance between representational and non-representational images. These attempts have led him to redefine the activity of painting as a condition where one is left to grapple with, more than anything else, a physical object – a thing subjected to physical deformities. Something that can be cut, burnt, and bent. This object’s surface (the canvas) becomes then purely incidental, and can be filled or left empty; the pigment and textures applied become a materialization of a presence rather than the construction of images. And this presence in Cruz’s paintings translate into the presence of a conceptual scheme found within his process, to which he describes as, “representations of broken images, shapes, and textures that have been intentionally reduced and recreated.”
As seen in his previous work, the perceptibly figurative images lie beneath the layers of his signature. Thick impasto lines of multi-colored oil pigments serve as backdrops or as defaced surfaces, depending upon one’s perspective. Most of his works reveal ‘shadows’ of explicit genre paintings, with themes as varied as portraiture, landscape, or Flemish pastoral scenes. In his present works exhibited for his show in ARNDT Berlin entitled, Subtraction Paradise, the explosion of numerous colorful lines transform into massive, singular obstructions. According to Cruz, the resultant works “attempt to make things more simplified and more defined in a natural way specifically when dealing with negative spaces – the most frightening state of my practice.” His previous displays of immense layers of wild, anarchic splaying of lines and smears have graduated into shapely contours of thick, vast, pigments that take over the frame as a singular imposing entity. This shift is evident in Untitled diptych (2015), shown in the current exhibition, where the canvas on the left brandishing a chaotic scenery of lines is opposed by a large, consolidated silvery-white field on the right. It is an apt display of the dichotomy that pervades his present art practice: the rapture triggered by horror vacui against the simplicity and purity of the negative space.
The ‘negative space’, then, becomes part of Jigger Cruz’s discourse, and thus another layer on top of the eliminated surface. The idea of subtraction becomes twofold: the annihilation of the image underneath, and the accumulation of negative spaces. In Jigger Cruz’s work, an absence occurs at the center of the painting’s materiality. The real subject – his raw, textured, chaotic blots of thick layered oil pigment obscure the viewer from the image we were programmed to consider as subject. Even his iconoclastic procedures extend well outside the canvas and onto the material of the frame itself, which he scorches, carves and disfigures. His interventions within the imagery spill over far beyond the surface, pushing his works further into the category of material object.
Jigger Cruz’s solo exhibition at ARNDT Berlin, Subtraction Paradise, represents the reduction of painting into an activity that negates the discipline in the traditional sense. Via this enquiry, whereby painting’s time-honored rubric of canvas, subject, and frame is dismantled and reconfigured, Cruz’s process of extending the possibilities of art, physically and symbolically, beyond the limits of painting’s parameters, questions painting as a viable creative medium.