Cruz Jimenez possesses an idiosyncratic, anamorphic lens that allows him to look into the middle distance between the figurative and the completely abstract. A glance back at his past work turns up lofty images of sweeping painterly colours – forever oscillating away from the overtly figurative and back to it. In his most recent work, he has sought the figure once again, presenting it in a way that only he can.
Jimenez’s practice is the perfect distillation of the definition of abstraction. Ask him what he sees in his current work and he points to a branch supporting a bird – here a feather, there a tree. What the viewer sees, though, is the world distilled through Jimenez’s lens – the pulse and the hum and the glitter located just below the surface.
A new ovoid form dominates his recent work, and these egg-like shapes bring to mind the basest of forms – amoebae or cells. They group together like some pseudo-scientific film of bacteria, moving always toward some central point. These forms were born of Jimenez’s love of the pure, meditative gesture. Each cell is made with one unerring movement of his hand, which he moves intuitively over the canvas, as though on a Ouija board. With his amoebic forms Jimenez has forged a new base material and a new aesthetic. As he consciously returns his mind to the basics of painting – line, colour, and form – Jimenez strikes a chord between the forms, his focus on nature, and his concentration on the fundamentals of artistic imagery.
Unexpectedly, Jimenez cites Victoriana and Hieronymus Bosch as inspirations for his shapes and palette. His muted veils of colour throb as he feels his way through each composition – here more darkness, there more light. Jimenez’s visual articulateness allows him to realise the innate composition that lies latent on each of his canvases. The result is a visceral experience for the viewer – we can intuitively understand these scenes before we can make sense of them.
The work is about collecting, assembling, and constructing worlds. Having toyed with the shaped canvas, Jimenez is now exploring the three-dimensional, in which he blends seamlessly hand-blown glass forms – a reference to his own ‘bubble boy’ persona – and the Victorian curiosity cabinet. Nimbly fusing the whimsical and the historical (both his own history and the history of objects), Jimenez’s new pieces are proxies of his own interior ether.
Jimenez sees into spaces and into things. He is quite sure that what he is seeing and what he is painting – what he is creating – is real. It is grounded here, in the same space as the viewer, and though he may cast his own light through the mass of the forms he examines, he is quick to remind us that this is not another world he is painting. These are not satellite images of other galaxies. Jimenez is teaching us to see past the figures art school taught him to so patiently form. His deft explorations of the middle distance of our everyday are anything but superficial; they are insightful and profoundly beautiful.
Essay by Amy Stewart
Born: 1967, California, USA
Education: Bachelor of Fine Arts, Art Institute of Southern California, USA
Awards/Distinctions: Board of Trustees Scholarship of Merit, Art Institute of Southern California, USA (1993); The AICAD/New York Studio Residency Programme, USA - studying at Yale University, New York; Parsons School of Design, New York; The New School for Social Research, New York (1993-95)
Collections: Irvine Fine Art Centre, Southern California, USA, The James Wallace Arts Trust
Public Exhibitions: Wallace Gallery, Morrinsville (2015), Mixed Metaphors, Corban Estate Arts Centre, Auckland (2007); Scope Art Fair, New York (2003), Sydney Contemporary Art Fair (2015)
Publications/Articles: ‘Inside Story’ by Alan Perrott, Urbis, No. 96: The Luxury Issue, Feb/Mar 2017, pp 47-51; ‘Memory Serves: Remembering in Cruz Jimenez’s Viaje’ by Amy Stewart, Art New Zealand, No. 159, Spring 2016, pp 84-87;‘Threads of rich emotion’ by Terry McNamara, The New Zealand Herald, Sept 2014; ‘Friedl pulls the strings’ by Terry McNamara, The New Zealand Herald, Mar 2014; Stewart, Amy, Cruz Jimenez: Bubble Boy, Auckland: Sanderson Contemporary, 2013; ‘Industrial Revolution’ by Lee Ann Yare, Homestyle New Zealand, Issue 54, Jun/Jul 2013, pp 31-38; ‘Experiment with light lets energy shine through’ by Terry McNamara, The New Zealand Herald, Apr 2011; ‘Steel in the Spotlight’ by Catherine Smith, Viva, Mar 2011 (Cover feature)