by Ramon E.S. Lerma
To say that Oo means Yes is to lose something in translation. Indeed, the Filipino language is so richly nuanced that one needs to hear Oo roll from the tongue or uttered forcefully to understand how such a simple word could convey so much – evoking gentleness, generosity, openness, strength, tenacity, and determination all at once.
How fitting is it then that Maria Cruz, an artist with the most basic of Filipino names, and who over the last two decades has created some of the most outwardly straightforward yet conceptually demanding works that I have ever seen, would choose Oo as the title of her first retrospective exhibition.
Cruz is an expatriate visual artist who has lived and worked in Sydney, Australia since 1980 and now resides in Berlin, Germany. Despite moving in international art circles, she has always maintained close ties with her homeland. Indicative of the metaphysical quality of her paintings that combine semiotics and color theory, and of her installation and video work, where reflection and personal and communal exchange play pivotal roles, Oo can also be read as a visual metaphor for a career that has come full circle.
As Cruz looked inwards and outwards to organise this survey, she turned to a good friend and longtime follower of her work, Jo Holder, who generously shared her time and expert knowledge to curate this exhibition. Holder’s thoughtful selection and insightful Q&A with the artist which appears in this catalogue receive my utmost commendation.
To Silvana Diaz, director of Galleria Duemila, who began representing Cruz in Manila some years back, to Vasili Kaliman of Kaliman Gallery, Sydney who continues to strongly support her, I also with to express sincere thanks.
It is my hope that this exhibition will reach across to viewers, especially those who are new to the art of Maria Cruz; and that they will respond to her in the same way that she approaches her practice – with intensity, seriousness and a mind’s eye that seeks to fathom the sheer ineffability of reality.