Recent paintings and installations extend the play with the fluid intelligence of images and use artisanal processes such as batik and hand-cut stencils to reposition Western modernist ideas of image and colour into a proletarian or third world context. For Tansan (Oo) the artist’s family punched out coins from reflective paper as extended signs of abstracted labour.
Such works observe a point in urban life when the experience of the local and public is fading, due in part to mass consumption allied to the pervasive ‘tweeting’ style of intimacy. Coca cola is a translation of shop façades and a social portrait of the makeshift architecture delivered by commerce in a developing economy. Sari-sari are the family shops that are the staple of Manila social life.
Maria Cruz’s humble crafted translations of makeshift family shops show how a regime of multinational styles and political will function as a capitalist cultural logic of urbanism both in Manila and Sydney. While social democratic homilies or urban renewal projects in Manila are warped or adapted by raw need or catastrophe, the product serves the same end: architecture and design that are advertisements.
Elsewhere only an absence is evoked, hidden in forms created or erased by word patterns. In these disorienting meetings, meaning, composition and concept subtly shift. The erasure found in earlier paintings about civic virtues resurfaces in the new video work, Poetry, that replays the idea of the artist at odds with society. As artists recite Charles Bukowski’s poem ‘The Genius of the Crowd’, the narrative structure lays out alternative or heroic communal possibilities that may or may not still exist.
These layers make Maria Cruz’s work unusually potent: her touch is at once blithe and existential, autobiographic and symbolic. At the heart of these beguiling installations is the belief that only individual practice and observation have survived capitalism, remaining as a possibility for a life.
Oo: Selected paintings and projects by Maria Cruz, 1996-2008 was shown at Ateneo Art Gallery, Manila in 2008
Maria Cruz is represented by Kaliman Gallery, Sydney
27 October to 27 November 2009 UTS Gallery
Level 4, 702 Harris Street, Ultimo
Monday to Friday 12-6pm www.utsgallery.uts.edu.au