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Beauty Morphed

It’s an otherwise gloomy Friday afternoon in Stockholm when I log on to join Angela de la Cruz and her assistant Mariana Lemos for our planned video session. The interview takes part on the occasion of the opening of de la Cruz’s new exhibition at Wetterling Gallery in Stockholm which goes under the title Hermetic. Behind de la Cruz I get a glimpse of a large steel canvas-like construction leaning against the wall, a work in progress de la Cruz notes. As we glide into the interview, de la Cruz soon enough lets me in to experience a sort of digital mood board in the making. We go from looking at Goya’s sombre paintings to scrolling through Stine Goya’s colour-explosive garments and from there on to watching footage from Harold Loyd’s 1923 movie Safety Last. As with her works, it is as if the conversation combusts the flatness of the computer screen, rendering it multi-dimensional qualities. “Everything is information” notes de la Cruz.

Installation view, Angela de la Cruz, Hermetic, Wetterling Gallery. Photography by Jean-Baptiste Béranger, courtesy Wetterling Gallery

C-P: Thank you so much for taking time off your busy schedule to sit down with us and congratulations on the opening of your new show! From your Instagram account I learn that Hermetic is about “those spaces in tension between what is sealed, safe controlled and the outside.” I interpret this as the works’ engagement in a dialogue on the state of involuntary reclusion we have been submitted to due to the restrictions during the pandemic. Has the experience of tension altered the choices and the way you work with materials?

AdlC: Thank you - I have looked forward to this exhibition at Wetterling Gallery – I have such affection for the team and the space. The works exhibited were created specifically with the gallery space in mind. I was also very happy to travel to Stockholm for the opening since it was the first time I travelled abroad since the pandemic came.

As regards my practice, what has been important is to study how to think, process the information I take in, because everything is information. In my latest works I have been adding more layers – this may be connected to an altered sense of time. I have been thinking a lot about the lost sense of time and the impression that leaves us with. So, I wanted to document the experience of the pandemic – how one is maybe indoors, inside and thus protected but at the same time how this also feels like a prison. The idea of blindness has also preoccupied me after seeing the film Blue by Derek Jarman. I wanted to reflect upon this idea of being blinded by colour. As with all my work, it is important for the works to be appealing – beautiful and luxurious. The idea that each work exudes a “look-at-me” attitude. I don’t care to be frivolous. When I realised that painting was not the only form of expression and although I was very aware of history, the same knowledge allowed me to break away.

Installation view, Angela de la Cruz, Hermetic, Wetterling Gallery. Photography by Jean-Baptiste Béranger, courtesy Wetterling Gallery

C-P: One of your newest works, Loop (Yellow) 2021, was included in this year’s Royal Academy of Arts’ Summer Exhibition 2021 for which you went on to receive the Sunny Dupree Family Award for Woman Artist. With this work as a starting point, I would like to know more about your work with colour. What prompts your use of colour for a given work? Is it a pre-meditated element or a result of your state of mind in that moment of creating?

AdlC: When it comes to colour, I am usually concerned with conveying certain emotions. With Loop (Yellow) at the RA I wanted to transmit hope. I often work in series, you could say I am basically creating the same painting but with variations in colour. Right now, I am very influenced by Goya and his darker paintings, as well as black paintings of Ad Reinhardt, so for my next exhibition, which will be a development from Hermetic, I am experimenting with black. I have always been interested and studied the more traditional painting styles. The colour in all my works is applied with a very specific method of painting focussed on the intensity of the brushstroke and the direction with horizontal brushstrokes. The method of painting, you could say, renders them landscape paintings. The imagery of the paintings is rather created by the titles of the works, and so choosing the right title is extremely important.

C-P: A theme explored with the series of works entitled Loop, also featured in Hermetic is our altered apprehension of time. One could say that we have gravitated towards a more cyclical idea of time manifested through repetition, which brings about a tension in relation to the more linear view we have grown accustomed to in western society. Can there be a sense of calm in repetition?

AdlC: The works in the series Loop create in the viewer the expectation that the next layer will be different but at the same time the viewer doesn’t know – there is a lack of transparency to them, a blindness they incur. And yes, I guess repetition or the sense of a comforting, repetitive movement can be therapeutic. That is also reflected in the way the works are created; the process that is followed to create work is like the one applied to the others in the series. So, in a way, that is also therapeutic. It brings to mind the repetitive nature of my daily commute from the studio to my home, listening to music and looking out at the sea of cars, and the same view. There is something poetic about that. In a way, the works are perfect but at the same time they are striving for a release. The work Transfer to 2021 (Red) is on the surface and at first glance quite beautiful but also a bit damaged; it has gone through the pandemic and therefore is slightly damaged. We can’t ignore and carry on when faced with this – some things are difficult to ignore in that sense.

C-P: A recurring theme in your practice is the manipulation, or tearing apart if you will, of the physical components of the painting accentuating precisely that element – their physicality. I have read somewhere about your practice being described as a form of destruction as art. Would you phrase you practice as destruction and if so, what does destruction signify to you?

AdlC: The works have freedom I would say. I see destruction as a transformative space, a space that makes room for transgression. All my works have this action to them, an inherent state of transformation. They are about something becoming something else. Transformation can therefore be liberating. The idea that something can be both beautiful and dangerous intrigues me. I draw a lot of my inspiration from slapstick humour tradition like the movie Safety Last by Harold Loyd and from picaresque novels, which in a way circle around a notion of the art of survival. I am intrigued by idea of the hero who survives by humour and how humour functions as a survival tool.

Installation view, Angela de la Cruz, Hermetic, Wetterling Gallery. Photography by Jean-Baptiste Béranger, courtesy Wetterling Gallery

C-P: At least as early as 1997, and I am thinking of the work Self, you have been incorporating furniture into some of your works. In your ongoing show Hermetic we see these elements returning (e.g., Transfer to 2021 (Red), 2011 - 2021). What considerations come into play when determining whether to incorporate such elements into the work?

AdlC: The work Self was the first work in which I started using furniture. At that point in time, I was very much influenced by French philosophy and the writings of Jacques Derrida in particular. I was thinking a lot about painting as a concept and exploring the language of painting. The furniture in my work stands in for the body; furniture exists only in relation to the body, for example a table is for me to put my cup on. Back then I was spending a lot of time in my studio on my chair looking at my paintings, in the end, the self became the painting. There is in the exploration of painting the concept of deconstruction – I think some fashion designers are a good example of that, they push the production of clothes to the limit and I want to do that. I am always curious to see how far I can go, how far I can push those boundaries. It’s quite far.

© Angela de la Cruz; Courtesy the artist and Wetterling Gallery. Photography by Damian Griffiths

C-P: Earlier this year you curated the group exhibition Small which was presented at the Angela de la Cruz Studio showcasing works by artists assisting you at the studio. Tell me more about that experience. How did it all start?

AdlC: I always work with very talented young artists, that work with me in order to sustain their own practice. I respect them very much for their work and because I really appreciate their innovative ideas. As I get older, I appreciate these relationships more and more. During the pandemic the shows were cancelled all the time, the guys had all their plans cancelled, like me, so I decided to use my website as a pop-up space. We created a fictional space, modelled to the studio, so that they could show their work. We decided to call it Small, because we had no time or space to make anything big.

C-P: I read somewhere that you are an avid reader – what are you currently reading?

AdlC: Yes! I am currently reading a book by Almuneda Grandes and as soon as I am done, I will get started on Jonathan Franzen’s latest novel Crossroads. I read everything.

C-P: Lastly, what is in store for you in 2022?

AdlC: Now, I am planning an exhibition Hermetica 2 that will take place in Madrid. It will consist of a new body of works that draw from the ones that are currently showing at Wetterling Gallery. For the first time however I am using the colour black in my works so that is an interesting dimension that I am exploring.

Corina Wahlin

Angela de la Cruz’s Hermetic is showing at Wetterling Gallery in Stockholm through November 27.


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