Patrick Cruz and his winning entry ‘Time Allergy’.

Artist Patrick Cruz looks to his roots
by Ted Alcuitas

“My experience migrating from the Philippines to Canada informs my studio practice, prompting me to question notions of diaspora, displacement and the adoption of a new cultural identity,” Cruz notes in the RBC Canadian Painting Competition catalogue. “Through my conflicting colour palette, garish application of paint, repetitive mark making and maximalist compositions, my work aspires to mimic the destabilizing force of modernity to reveal its symptoms and effects.”

In an email to Philippine Canadian News.com, Cruz talks about his journey into art.

“I began my artistic venture when I was 17 when I met the artist Rodel Tapaya and Marina Cruz, they were both teaching a summer art course in preparation for the talent test in UP Diliman’s College of Fine Arts. I applied to the College of Fine Arts in 2004 and upon my acceptance I began my training in drawing, painting and sculpture. Rodel Tapaya and Marina Cruz invited me to see a performance by an artist named Sam Penaso, luckily his eerie exhibition coincided with the late Santiago Bose. Bose had a retrospective in CCP at the time and since then has left an imprint in my memory. I was blown away by his diverse material sensibility, humour, wit and political rigour.

His move haunts him

The question of why he moved to Canada haunts him and is “like a cloud that’s looming all the time,” he told CBC in an interview.

Born in Quezon City, Philippines, Cruz moved with his family in 2005 at the age of 18 and earned a BFA at Vancouver’s Emily Carr University of Art and Design. He is now completing a MFA at the University of Guelph in Ontario.

The 28-year old former Surrey,B.C.resident has an older brother,Francis, who is also an artist.

Growing up in the bustling metropolis of Manila with its 13 million people, he admits that he “grew up in chaos” from which his winning submission – “Time Allergy” draws inspiration.

The title of Cruz’s painting is a reference to a quote by the Filipino filmmaker Lav Diaz, known for his six- and even nine-hour films depicting the lives of the rural poor in post-colonial Philippines. In an interview, Diaz remarked that the concept of structured time is a Western transplant, introduced to the Philippines by its Spanish colonizers hundreds of years ago.

“We were kind of allergic to this idea of modernity and modernization,” Cruz says.

In some ways, Cruz’s view on colonization runs along the lines of another Filipino painter – Mideo Cruz (no relation), whose 2011 installation art ‘Poleteismo’ caused a huge controversy in the Philippines for its irreverent dig on Catholic traditions.

“There’s a long history of painting in the Philippines, but there’s also a sense of conservatism,” Cruz explains. “It’s a very religious country. Santiago Bose’s work was critiquing those superstructures. I didn’t understand that at the time — I was just really attracted to how the paintings looked. He used a lot of collage and unconventional ways of constructing an image that really appealed to me.”

Ongoing dialogue

He plans to use part of the $25,000 prize money to put up the next year’s Kamias Triennale an experimental art show he launched last year in his native city of Manila.

‘I think I’m going to use those funds to foster a good artistic community and perhaps create a dialogue between Canadian and Filipino artists,” he said in an interview.

“There doesn’t seem to be much of a connection between southeast Asia and North America.”

The RBC award is Cruz’ first major national award. He had several scholarship awards over the years in addition to solo and group exhibitions in the Philippines, Canada, Mexico and Thailand. In 2011, he had a commissioned work in the Czech Republic.