A is for Adroit, T is for Truth
By Jonathan Olazo
Lec Cruz is one of the adroit young talents around. Naturally gifted as a painter, he can shift gears from zero to infinity in depicting naturalistic representations: from Manet and Monet, to an expressionistic mode like Beckmann or Kippenberger, or to something cool like Tuymans or Oehlen. He covers the gamut from intuitive, emotional and intellectual – and that probably makes him the painter’s thinking painter.
In his latest exhibition at West Gallery, he once again goes through a personal litmus test. Covering a massive political theme that has entangled our present history, Cruz breaks down his narrative in two groupings: A row of small portraits in oil that line the wall in a procession-like sequence and leads up to three diptych murals that depict a very recognizable interior scene – the presidential office and residence of the Philippines.
The portraits are quizzically painted, blurred with care to the point of least recognition. Each subject has sat and worked at the highest position as the commander of state. Aside from its deliberate obscuring in hues that are earthy with a pinch of acidity that makes it invigorating, the portrayed image have their mouths open with matching contorted cheeks.
Is the portrayal catching each subject in a forceful declamation that is aimed to subjugate a populace by fear? But, it is more likely that the off-guard moment is a paused yawn. Cruz does not make any excuses – this nervous reflex, in his terms, is rooted in indifference. Political administrations have come and gone and the people remain pining for a semblance of renewal and improvement in a life easier and conducive to survive and perform.
Cruz does not absolve the picture from its other extraordinary gift. It can bring people together. Building on (Walter) Benjamin’s prophesy of transporting one experience to a different context by not travelling but by a singular image in a photograph, Cruz brings us to different scenarios at different times, and simultaneously, forces us into a wall where we inevitable should have opinions on a prevalent and anomalous reality.
Cruz’s works highlight a burgeoning aspect of making paintings out of photographs, or, expansively, paintings about images via photographs. In both photography and painting media, subjectivity almost always comes into play. A vital compromise, if not collaboration, is reached. In understanding that each medium carries its own propensity to make false claims, it is a starting point for renegotiation. Being able to manage its characteristics makes it a viable tool in the artist’s dispensation of opinions, and in this regard, makes a better, if not unbiased, case in negotiating truth.