A3 EDITORIAL | Marina Cruz


A3 Editorial spoke to Marina Cruz upon the occasion of her solo exhibition “Mend and Amends” art Arndt Art Agency, Berlin. Representing her European solo debut, the show presents a suite of new paintings that continue the Filipino artist’s central topic of dress and the depiction of fabric.

In these works a strong sense of nostalgia is conjured in Cruz’s imagery of worn and used clothing that enlivens connections to her family heritage, but also domestic crafts. Despite being devoid of the human figure, each of her highly detailed paintings of garments spark imagination concerning the life of the absent wearer. In this exclusive interview, the artist discusses her path to becoming an artist, her working processes, and the concept behind her solo exhibition.

Marina Cruz – Mend And Amends

Marina Cruz, Mend And Amends solo exhibition opening at Arndt Art Agency (A3), Berlin, November 2016

What was your path to becoming an artist?

When I was very young, I helped my mother, who is a public school teacher, make visual aids to be used in school. I enjoyed making crafts and projects. At the age of ten I started joining art competitions and then by the time I got to high school, I joined the school art club. When it came to choosing which path to take in college I was pretty convinced I wanted to pursue a creative career. I studied painting at the University of the Philippines, majoring in painting. I always find myself enjoying making art even if it is challenging or difficult at times. It gives me a feeling of accomplishment whenever I get to finish a work or body of new work.

Did you have any inspirational teachers?

The University of the Philippines one of the top Universities in the Philippines. It allowed me to be exposed to different artistic persuasions. The professors have very varied points of view; traditional and conceptual. I got very good training in painting through Prof. Sustiger who taught us the classical ways to paint, following the Masters like Rubens and Rembrandt. We were also taught the very traditional ways of casting by Prof. Madrinan, and printmaking by Prof. Rey Conception. I also had very talented, young professors teaching drawing and visual composition such as José Santos III and Pam Yan. Not to forget the mentorship of Professor Roberto Chabet regarding conceptual frameworks.

Galerie ArndtInstallation view: Marina Cruz, Mend and Amends, Arndt Art Agency, Berlin, 2016

Have you always worked with painting?

Although my major really is painting, I do work with various art forms such as sculpture, prints and installation, and also with objects, photographs and video work. I remember Professor Chabet asking me why I was straying from painting when I was working on my undergraduate thesis. I was working with installations, prints and cast dresses at the time and he reminded me that my strength lies with painting. I love to paint, but also love to explore other art forms at the same time.

You achieve such detailed, realistic smooth surfaces. Can you discuss your working process and technique.

I learned a lot of painting techniques in college. My recent works are photo-based and object-based, like still lifes. I take photos as source material and work on them grid by grid. However, after the initial painting, I focus on the details, looking at the actual material as reference also. There’s a particular methodology in my actual painting process. I work more spontaneously with my compositions. I try a lot of shots and angles with my source photography before I arrive at the image I hope to achieve

MCRU0008_Whites and Blues Torn and Mended by dragonflies_48in x 36in_oil on canvas_2016_opt.jpgImage caption: Marina Cruz, Whites and Blues Torn and Mended by dragonflies, 2016, oil on canvas, 121,92 × 91,44 cm

Your works depict a central subject of clothing and fabric. Can you discuss why you focus on this imagery? You have mentioned that this topic relates to your personal history.

I discovered this central subject; clothing and fabric quite by accident. In 2002, I was looking for a material to add to my printmaking plate, just something for texture. I looked inside my grandmother’s old cabinets searching for mosquito net material that I had in mind and I came across my mother’s old baptismal dress. It was a very surreal experience to unearth this artefact. I was looking at the fabric and the dress and imagining my mother as a tiny fragile baby. The dress was very fragile and brittle as well. It was discoloured and no longer in pristine condition. I found the connection between the ageing of the material and the wearer fascinating. I became fascinated in the ephemeral quality of people and objects.

Marina Cruz – Mend And AmendsMatthias Arndt and Marina Cruz, Berlin, November 2016

Clothing can certainly have strong associations to the memories of the people who have worn them.

Yes, and clothing is the object nearest to the body, its intimate relationship is like a second skin. It hides vulnerabilities and accentuates what we think is beautiful. I made an installation project in 2008-2009 called “Un/Fold” at Ateneo Art Gallery, Manila, where I created a personal archive of almost 100 dresses. I took these dresses, photographed them, and wrote stories and memories that my mother and her siblings told me about the garments on the photo prints. One by one, it was like a revelation of a personal history.

Do you intend to make any comment about the hand craft of making clothes versus the global mass production of clothing? Is this a topic that interests or motivates you?

At first I was just very occupied with working on the theme and subject of clothing as an archive and metaphor for the body. However, if you place this narrative in the global context of mass production you see a lot of contrast and differences in values. This discussion concerning over consumption and production, versus frugality and mindful production and consumption can be read into. I guess I like the questions the work could elicit, but primarily it is not a concern when I make these works.

Galerie ArndtInstallation view: Marina Cruz, Mend and Amends, Arndt Art Agency, Berlin, 2016

What do you hope audiences take away from your work?

At first, I do hope they enjoy the work in its composition, tactile quality, colours and patterns. My hope is for viewers to meditate and look more closely under these garments. Hopefully people reflect on the ‘life’ of things, viewing fabric not just as dresses, but also documents. I encourage audiences to accept and see beauty in the imperfect qualities of the garments, in the tears, the mended areas, stains and colouration changes.

Marina Cruz – Mend And AmendsMarina Cruz, Mend and Amends, Arndt Art Agency, Berlin, 2016

How do you continue to develop and evolve your artistic practice?

I work back and forth with themes that I find authentic for me and work I enjoy. I look closely at works I have created before and develop how I can improve my art practice and subjects. It is always a working progress and discovery along the journey.

Marina Cruz – Mend And AmendsMarina Cruz, Mend and Amends, Arndt Art Agency, Berlin, 2016

You have exhibited extensively throughout Asia in recent years, holding some impressive solo exhibitions. Your solo exhibition art Arndt Art Agency in November 2016 represents your European debut, exposing your work to new audiences.

“Mend and Amends” exposes and explores the idea that imperfections can be beautiful, that one can find alternative meanings by looking closely at an object. It celebrates our vulnerabilities through metaphors of stains, folds, creases, and tears. This exhibition is special to me because this body of work was developed while my grandmother, who made most of the dresses, was still alive, and when completed, my grandmother passed away. Personally something changed in the way I look at these works now. It suddenly dawned on me that “Mend and Amends” is part of my own mourning process.

Galerie Arndt

Mend and Amends continues until the 3rd of March, 2017 at Arndt Art Agency, Berlin.