My dear, dear Friend ... in thy voice I catch
The language of my former heart.
In the paintings of Cruz Jimenez, atmospheric abstractions flutter like veils across still lifes of memory and mark-making. Several of his most recent works contain emotionally evocative imagery like doves and white roses that are rich with poetic, spiritual impact. But even in the absence of such figurative directives, the penumbric, dappled contours of the abstraction tell the same tales, in tenors whispered and true.
Jimenez’s studio has seen the unfurling of a single narrative arc across some three decades, a lyrical hero’s journey which continues to unfold and find direct expression in the evolution of his style. Jimenez possesses a special gift for translating the narrative of his inner life into the visual language of the natural world – and at times along the way this has not always been so lyrical, so lovely, or so light in its step. There was a time, long ago, in a far-away homeland, when matters of both art and soul were darker for Jimenez – when secrets were buried in deep shadow, and truth was buried in heavy impasto. But things change, people change, even homelands change, and with them, our fates.
The Welsh word hiraeth, for which his most recent series is named, is one of those luxurious words with no direct English translation. It describes a longing for one’s homeland, but it’s not mere homesickness. It’s an expression of the particular idealized bond one feels with one’s home (or with the past) when one is away from it. It hints at the paradox of missing a place that may not ever have existed, and the ghosts of guilt for the freedom one has chosen, and the active disappearance and unbidden return of memories over time. And all the layers of this esoteric, existential palimpsest are visible in Jimenez’s mixed media works. The way a person is built is also the way a painting is built – bit by bit – and he leaves it all inside the finished images, whose many layers enumerate experiences and wishes in a physical, optical method.
Stones, plants, birds, white roses, wary washes, wide gestures, and glimmering points of light are activated and informed by the role of language as reflected in his titles, like Mother’s Brandy, Sophie’s Dove, A Sea Without its Tide, The Moon Lured Me, and Under the Moon I Planted. His lexicon of drape, oval, sweep, and orb hints at connections to the spritely world of spirits and fairies. Not just painted shapes, these lights are nearly beings, beginning to become alive. Jimenez describes a personal affinity with aspects of New Zealand’s culture which honour an earth-energy nexus through an iconography of pattern and abstraction. His reserved, gradient palette of mainly gold, black, white, and matte or silvery grey further expresses this contemplative manner of being in the world.
In his use of mixed and unconventional mediums, as in his technique, Jimenez’s sources and materials carry meaning in themselves. Working in ink, oil, and powdered pigments like charcoal and graphite, Jimenez relies on classically won academic techniques, the fundamentals of drawing, and the manipulated accidents that come with the practice of water-based mediums. The formal, technical part of his process is as important as its inspiration, in an honest metonymy of light and shadow enacted with the self-reliance and laidback confidence that comes with maturity. The photography frequently layered inside his currents of pigment is derived from old negatives taken from the house he grew up in. Roses from his mother’s garden, a pet bird inherited from a family friend, and other prompts for meditations on mortality. In this way Jimenez’s theory, concept, and form all become a convergent poetics, spoken in the language of his once and future heart.
Essay by Shana Nys Dambrot
BORN: 1967, California, USA
EDUCATION: Bachelor of Fine Arts, Art Institute of Southern California, USA
AWARDS: Board of Trustees Scholarship of Merit, Art Institute of Southern California, USA (1993); The AICAD/New York Studio Residency Programme, 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, CA, 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)
SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY: ‘Life Stories’ by Alice Lines, Homestyle New Zealand, Jun/Jul 2017, pp 56-59; ‘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, Sep 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