Humberto Cruz: The Symbolic Exploration of Art

Art and article by Humberto Cruz

CURATED BY CREATIVE ARTS DIRECTOR, ISABEL MERCHAND

 "Fallen" from the Calligraphies Series - Oil mixed media on canvas, 60 in x 48 in.

"Fallen" from the Calligraphies Series - Oil mixed media on canvas, 60 in x 48 in.

My work explores the symbolism, the message, what is revealed, is "written", interpreted, or hidden, including various cultural, historical and existential references. Symbols have marked the history of mankind since the beginning of primitive societies as visual elements to represent the environment and express multiple ideo-spiritual concepts. Starting from a mythological and religious origin, they evolved into expressions of ideology, culture, identity and memory.

In the Sumerian cuneiform ideograms, in the Semitic religions of Assyrians and Phoenicians, as well as in the Egyptian hieroglyphs and in the expressions of Hindu and Indo-European cultures, the symbol prevails. It began with the representation of natural phenomena, personified in mythological beings. Furthermore, it ended embodying the moral values of society and the dominant ideology.

Symbols have also been used as the exclusive language of what should be kept hidden. Examples of this are the symbols of Early Christians in Roman times, or those used by Freemasons and some African ancestral cults brought to the Americas. They were rooted as an indispensable element of the cultural and religious syncretism across the continent.

 "March" from the Calligraphies Series - Oil mixed media on canvas, 40 in x 60 in.

"March" from the Calligraphies Series - Oil mixed media on canvas, 40 in x 60 in.

Writing and its calligraphic form (as a visual and lasting expression of oral language) meant the transition from pictograms to abstract signs. In human communication, words are perceived as elements that identify objects, actions, emotions and concepts, but exist without a need to be mentioned or written for words have an ephemeral and substitutable character. Hence, calligraphy, as a purely aesthetic expression, acquires more cultural importance and universality than its readability or specific understanding.

Calligraphy is a distinctive element of Islam, both cultural and religious. It constitutes the visual expression of the divine message in the Suras of the Koran, which also forbids the representation of living beings in sacred texts and places. In Oriental cultures, writing is considered the Message of the Heavens, and for this reason each calligraphic symbol carries a reserve of sacred energy. 

In calligraphy one of the basic principles of Japanese aesthetics, wabi-sabi, is materialized in the proportionality of simplicity, expressed in black and white, which is one of the paths (do) that lead to truth.

I identify equally with the hallucinating figures of Wilfredo Lam, who imposed in Western Art the multicultural miscegenation of the Americas. I also identify with the energetic gesturality of Jackson Pollock, who irreversibly changed the way an artist expresses and executes his work. In both discourses, despite their differences, there is equal mysticism and aesthetic authenticity.

 "Disobedience's Words" from the Calligraphies Series - Acrylic mixed media on canvas, 40 in x 48 in.

"Disobedience's Words" from the Calligraphies Series - Acrylic mixed media on canvas, 40 in x 48 in.

I am interested in both the immediacy, as in the combinations achieved in the Ifa Table of the Yoruba Priests, and the permanence, as in the Egyptian and Mayan hieroglyphs, carved in stone for eternity. I do not believe that my work can be classified as figurative or completely abstract, which depends to a large extent on the result of the creative process, which consists of four stages:

The Laboriosity Stage, in which I need exploration and physical interaction with the materials; working on the surface of the canvas, wood and paper with the same devotion and rigor with which the papyrus was prepared, or the way medieval monks prepared the vellum of their manuscripts.

The Expressive Stage, in which I apply the painting in a continuous and uninterrupted manner. There is no "automatism", because I let ideas, references and feelings flow at the conscious level, while releasing the energy of the subconscious expression, which creates spontaneous, unique and unrepeatable forms.

The Revelation Stage, in which the work itself unveils the message, its symbols or the figure of its messengers, as well as its various connotations.

Lastly, The Dialogue Stage; proposed in each piece and that becomes multiple, global and simultaneously individualized with each spectator as an active interlocutor.

 "Back to the New World" from the Calligraphies Series - Oil mixed media on canvas, 40 in x 60 in.

"Back to the New World" from the Calligraphies Series - Oil mixed media on canvas, 40 in x 60 in.

 "Oddibbere" from the Calligraphies Series - Acrylic mixed media on canvas, 36 in x 48 in.

"Oddibbere" from the Calligraphies Series - Acrylic mixed media on canvas, 36 in x 48 in.

 "Korup" from the Calligraphies Series - Acrylic mixed media on canvas, 40 in x 48 in.

"Korup" from the Calligraphies Series - Acrylic mixed media on canvas, 40 in x 48 in.