I begin on a blank canvas without a preconception of the final outcome. I allow things to develop according to my thoughts, feelings and moods and how these shift and change as my painting begins to unfold.
I don't start with a colour order, but find the colours as I go. The whole business of spotting the small areas of color in the canvas, how the edges meet, how accidents are controlled----all these things fascinate me.
The colours in my paintings are juxtaposed to support and contrast. They are chosen to evoke thoughts and emotions.
I don’t fear change throughout the process. Images are often altered, destroyed, erased and even returned as I feel my way to the best way to bring a painting to life. I call this stage in my process – “push and pull”. My challenge is to constantly push myself and test the limits of my imagination in the hope of creating impressions that are distinctly mine.
The Promise (is Fullfilled)
“Temporary homecomings are bittersweet. Sometimes it’s better not to go back at all than to have to leave again.” – Amanda Bouchet, “A Promise of Fire”
Over a decade ago, artist Cobie Cruz – like so many thousands of Filipinos arriving at critical crossroads in their lives - made a wrenching but necessary decision : to make a new and better life for himself and his family in Canada. Not surprisingly, at the family’s initial stage of expatriation, not everything was roses for Cobie. Again like his other kababayans who have struck out in a foreign territory, he had his fair share of struggles and travails, but always the priority was the material well-being of the family. Perforce, Cobie’s art had to take a back-seat in his mind’s attention – but in due course, properly settled and employed, he slowly made up for lost time.
A turning point was the health condition of Cobie’s father, Cris Cruz, who, unfortunately, had been diagnosed with a terminal illness. Cobie came home to Manila to be with his father, and one can only imagine what transpired in the talks between father and son in such a painful station situation. But the subject of art was of was always there, and especially during his father’s last remaining days, Cris Cruz always encouraged Cobie to pick up the brush, counselling him of “all the possibilities” that lie ahead of his son. It was then that Cobie had promised his father that he will never give up on his painting.
Thus, the title of Cobie’s homecoming show , “All The Possibilities,” now on view at the Saturday Group Gallery, on the east wing of the Shangri-la Plaza. The choice of venue is all the more meaningful, since Cris Cruz was once a pillar of this esteemed artists’ group, together with the late, great Malang.
Indeed, Cobie comes home armed, as it were, with impressive credentials; foremost, being in the stable of two reputable galleries in Toronto, who have steadily been finding a lucrative market for Cobie’s works. It is commonplace to say that finding a gallery abroad to represent your work is no walk in the park, what with the daunting competition of hundreds of other talented artists of various nationalities. Still, Cobie, during his Manila years prior to his expatriation, had been honing his art – his metier is abstraction, in an interesting contrast with his father’s works, which are among the finest lyrical expressions of floral arts hereabouts. True: we know of the saying - attributed to the Romanian sculptor Brancusi referring to his mentor, the master Rodin – that “Nothing grows under the shelter of a great oak tree.” But it is undeniable that talent is as thick as blood that courses from the family patriarch down to his progeny. In Cobie’s veins and artistic cells can be found the DNA derived from the late master Cris Cruz.
Indeed, this writer has been been privileged to have witnessed the development of Cobie’s works, and to have written about them in the past. One can in fact declare that Cobie has been exploring all the possibilities that abstraction can open up to him. While abstraction has as often been proclaimed dead, and as many times resurrected, this non-representational idiom surely lives and dies and is ultimately reborn in the hands of its most ardent local practitioners, two of which are, incidentally, Cobie’s personal friends, namely Edwin Wilwayco and Rico Lascano.
And thus at the Saturday Group Gallery now hang the many splendid works of Cobie, blooming in a colorful and radiant way, that may subconsciously allude to Cris Cruz’s floral blossoms. After all, Cobie’s forms may be likened to an unfolding of petals, rich with lyrical passages that converge and then disperse, though some may likely equate them with floating islands of deeply stained hues, in the high saturated keys of reds, orange, yellows, and purples – this last shade being seemingly sensitive and responsive to Cobie’s chromatic chords. Worthy of admiration too are the works in monochromes of blacks, whites, and grays, as well as the soothing and calm vibrations of the cool colors of blues and greens. Done in refined good taste, these works are especially convivial in the airy and light space of Cobie’s modulated spaces, with a kind of an unconscious glamorous presence.
When Cobie left Manila over a decade ago, he had wondered whether the art scene will remember him at all. Well, this present show is worth remembering, and assures him that the name Cobie Cruz will be not be forgotten. His late father Cris Cruz, up in artists’ heaven , must be beaming down with pride. Indeed, his son’s promise to him has been fulfilled.
Cid Reyes is the author of choice of National Artists Arturo Luz, BenCab, Elizalde Navarro, and Napoleon Abueva. He has written over forty art books and hundreds of art reviews and exhibition notes. Reyes received a “Best in Criticism” Award from the Art Association of the Philippines (AAP).
Precipitation (Purple Series)
The turbulent face of 19th century Romanticism loomed in J.M.W. Turner’s luminous paintings of wind lashed seas and rainstorm. The next century saw his countryman David Hockney depicting rain much as a school child would: strips of descending crayon lines forming a puddle of splashing water on the ground, upon which he inscribed the word rain. In various Japanese ukiyo-e prints, rain descends upon farmers rushing for shelter, a black sky engulfing them. Hiroshige’s famous rain scenes are the glory of his “Hundred views of Yedo.”
Closer to home, Filipino doctor-artist Toribio Herrera, contemporary of Fernando Amorsolo, did a rare painting entitled “Rainy Day.” The painting shows the fury of the monsoon rains whipping a frenzy of umbrellas, the frantic figures cowering, soaked to the skin. The weather never showed a more foul mood. Indeed, in Amorsolo country, where the sun is king, the site of rain is literally a wet blanket.
But now comes the rain, in all it’s drenching majesty, in the 1st solo exhibit of Cobie Cruz. All the works are riveting abstractions of rain, almost spiritual in their evocativeness, like remembrances of downpour in Tagaytay or Baguio cities or some hidden region of the heart where the heavens seem to weep without surcease. These images of rain provoke personal memories and moods as the relentless cascade of water pours from a heavy ceiling of dark, roiling clouds. And not just romantic rain, beloved of pop songs, but mysterious, imperturbable purple rain!
But why purple? Curiosity has gotten the better of his viewers. By Cobie’s own admission, purple is his favourite color. No need for any Freudian analysis, for there is certainly much to recommend the color purple. It has its variant shades, mauve and violet, the only color named after a flower.
The word purple is derived from “purpura” (from the Latin “puritae lucis”) meaning “purity of light.” Violet is the last color in the rainbow, symbolizing both “the ending of the known and the beginning of the unknown.” What lies beyond is the invisible ultra violet.
Ancient purple – also known, as Tyrian purple – was a dye extracted from the mollusk “Murex brandaris.” The Phoenicians were the people who became famous for trading the most valuable dye in history. Their very name derives from the Greek word purple, phoinis. But it was the Roman emperors, whose every toga was dyed in purple, who made it the color of royalty. Not only of royalty but also of power and luxury, passion and sexuality. Cleopatra’s barge had sails all dyed in purple. Because it was a valuable dye, Byzantine artists depicted Virgin Mary in robes of purple. In Japan, purple is the color of victory. The Shinto priests wrapped the most precious objects of the temple in purple cloth. In the Philippines, purple is the penitential color, the color of grief. During the lent, all the church images are covered in purple cloth. Also recall that the Roman soldiers threw a cloak of royal purple around the shoulders of Jesus, saluting Him, “Hail, King of the Jews!”
Purple, then, is the color of Cobie’s passion for painting. Despite a subject that lends itself to some rowdy execution (splashes and drippings), these are highly disciplined works, with their tempered lyricism and surprising quietude. Compositionally, the paintings are built around a central, or at least dominant, passage that evokes the sheets of rain, fine striations of furrowed pigment inter-cut with stiff brushwork. These suggest the harsh pelting of water on earth and vegetation. Arid colors of browns, siennas and rust mingle with organic colors like moss green.
Interestingly, the sheet of rain is often a bilateral dissection of two contrasting colors. But all throughout is the enveloping mist of grayish white, an ashen mistiness like a shroud of vapors. It’s the warm breath of exhalation against a glass windowpane on a rainy day.
To precipitate means to fall as rain, snow or hail. It also means to accelerate or to hasten. This show will do exactly that to the artistic career of Cobie Cruz, an artist who now bears watching. by Cid Reyes - Art Critic/Artist
There are two ways of looking at the world: Titled or Un.
The former looks with pre-formed definitions, the latter with open-ended curiosity. The former sees within a context, the latter intuits possibilities.
Cobie Cruz’ one-man exhibit “Precipitation” offers us just such an intriguing choice. Look at each piece in this prolific series without its title and it is pure abstraction: an artist exploring color and brush stroke for its own expression. The results are massive beyond their size. Stunning colors in bold strokes achieve movement; varying textures shift depths and light. One senses landscapes, shadowed and jaded a recurring image in the downward strokes of color. The mind reaches for what is subtly but persistently behind the veil.
Then look again. Titled, the compositions move into familiar relationships and, while still expressionistic, assume the changing qualities of rain. Sheets of rain, no longer invisible but made three-dimensional. Rain seen from a distance, a moving and finite mass re-shaping the terrain.
In this light, the brush strokes reveal true mastery. There is a translucence accomplished by the controlled variations in the downward stroke. Changing thickness, layering texture, it creates the sense of seeing through to landscapes beyond. Then there is a force, liberated in random dabs, as the downpour finds its base.
Seen either as pure abstraction or expressionist rainscapes, each piece in Cobie Cruz’ exploration holds the eye and spurs imagination. But because the mind seeks meaning, we will see themes and ponder questions well beyond the artist’s intent. Perhaps that nature’s most invisible element can diminish man’s monoliths to shadow. That its spectrum of color creates an unbroken canvas between earth and sky. Or simply, that abstract art is never really abstract. by Adelle Estrada
• The Promise, The Saturday Group Art Gallery, Philippines - January 2019
• Rainscape, Finale Art Gallery, Philippines - October, 2005
• Precipitation (Purple Series) West Gallery, Philippines - July, 2005
• Black & White Petroff Gallery, Toronto – May, 2023
• Forms, Twist Gallery, Toronto – February, 2023
• Works On Paper, Petroff Gallery, Toronto – September, 2019
• Harmony, Twist Gallery, Toronto – November, 2018
• Abstract, Petroff Gallery, Toronto – October, 2018
• Life in Colour, Arta Gallery, Toronto – August, 2018
• Miniature Exhibition, Petroff Gallery, Toronto – February, 2018
• Beyond Perimeter, (guest artist) Arta Gallery, Toronto – April, 2017
• Summer Exhibit, Ben Navaee Gallery, Toronto – August, 2016
• Creations and Expression, Cedar Ridge Studio Gallery, Toronto – June, 2007
• Texture in Style, Momentous Arts Gallery, Singapore – July, 2007
• The Saturday Group Show, Art Center Mega Mall, Philippines – July, 2006
• Vibration, Galerie Astra, Philippines – March, 2006
• 12" x 9", West Gallery, Philippines – December, 2005
• Quartet, West Gallery, Philippines – November, 2005
• Articulate, Finale Art Gallery, Philippines – October, 2005
• 20/20 Vision, Galerie Astra, Philippines – November, 2004
• Face/Off, Galerie Astra, Philippines – July, 2004
BORN: Manila, Philippines, 1961
EDUCATION: Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts Major in Advertising
University of Santo Tomas, Manila, Philippines