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Painting: Oil, silverleaf on Canvas.
This piece is one of the series ‘Phases of Ra’. Cruz looks at the representation of power and how the public assigns reverence to those who have it.
To explore this idea, he chooses portraiture painting, a genre closely associated with the privileged as seen in paintings made from Renaissance Europe to newly industrialized America. As such, in all of his paintings we see images indicating status. This is underscored by the carefully staged poise of the individuals, the embellishments and clothes that they carry, and the tidy wallpapered rooms where they would have stood for their portraits.
Cruz erases off evidence of the identities of the portrayed. Heads are replaced by filled-in or imprints of circles, a direct reference to Ra, the Egyptian sun-god.
Faceless or headless, these figures are pushed back into the background. What we are left with are distilled, surreal versions of their selves, bringing to the fore the qualities that makes us adore them.
"I always look at how people attribute to sacredness to a thing," Cruz says. "I try to deconstruct those things and put parallel meanings to them."
'Pandora', a circular painting reminiscent of an Elizabethan portrait, depicts a woman framed with a ruff and adorned with a tiara and a necklace dripping with pearls. With her face rubbed out, deduction of her identity rests on the perceivable evidence of material wealth.
The same goes for the military official whose mirror-image make up the diptych 'Stars'. In the absence of any signals of intimate personal history - age lines, battlescars, eyes showing self-satisfaction or weariness - we settle for what is visible: epaulets, a medal, a cap.
Cruz has long been interested in dynamics of belief systems. His works pose the questions: why do we sanctify something and how do we arrive at doing so? In this cycle of paintings, he asks us to look at the "neo-deities" and see why we revere them because what we hold in high regards says so much of our selves.
Artist featured by Saatchi Art in a collection