Inside artist Carlos Cruz-Diez's inimitable 'The Euphoria of Colour'

A posthumous solo exhibition at Galleria Continua Dubai, celebrates Venezuelan artist Carlos Cruz-Diez and his fascination with colour theory, through his works.

by Shraddha NairPublished on : Jan 09, 2023

In a unique presentation, Galleria Continua Dubai is showcasing the work of pioneering artist Carlos Cruz-Diez. The Venezuelan artist, who passed away in 2019 at the age of 95, had a keen interest in the nature of colours and approached it from both artistic and scientific perspectives. The outcome of these processes was a novel outlook on colour itself. Now, Galleria Continua is celebrating his exploratory practice in an exhibition titled The Euphoria of Colour.

Born in 1923, in the capital of Venezuela, Caracas, Cruz-Diez displayed an interest in art from a young age and eventually enrolled in a fine art school. He spent initial years of his career working as an illustrator and graphic designer, while developing his painting practice on the side. Cruz-Diez also made a range of murals, making his work accessible to the masses. The visual artist moved to Paris in 1960, recognising that his work surpassed the art landscape in Venezuela, at the time. 

A view of The Euphoria of Colour | The Euphoria of Colour | Carlos Cruz Diez | STIRworld
A view of The Euphoria of Colour Image: Musthafa Aboobacker; Courtesy of Galleria Continua Dubai

Eventually, Cruz-Diez became interested in kinetic art. At that point in time, kinetic art was still in its nascent stage of development and Cruz-Diez became a pathbreaking creator. His fascination with movement and the optics of art played an important role in his practice, later emerging as a vital element in his oeuvre. His experiments with light and colour are what he is widely remembered for, reflected in the title of the exhibition, as well. The artist’s son Carlos Cruz-Diez Jr spoke to STIR about the methods and motivations of his father’s singular practice, noting, "My father’s work puts two important notions at play: the dialectic between the artwork, the spectator and his environment, and the random impacts of light. He once said that ‘there is an infinite world of transformations in the slightest movement of light.’ That is why the exhibition at Galleria Continua in Dubai is so remarkable.” Each work on view can be seen as a ‘situation’ by itself, one which evolves from moment to moment in response to the natural light of the environment. Cruz-Diez Jr refers to this dynamism as an “act of transfiguration.”

Cruz-Diez’s optical art on view | The Euphoria of Colour | Carlos Cruz Diez | STIRworld
Cruz-Diez’s optical art on view Image: Musthafa Aboobacker; Courtesy of Galleria Continua Dubai

Cruz-Diez’s interest in colour began early. Cruz-Diez Jr. tells us, “At the beginning of the 1950s, following a period of traditional and academic painting and subsequent reflection on what it meant to be an artist, Cruz-Diez developed a new approach to painting, in which the goal was to free colour from the form.” This intention is revealed in the artist’s canvas-based works which embody movement in stillness, and depth in two-dimensional formats. The artist also uses plexiglass in many of his works, which act as a 'light-trap', creating the hypnotising and illusory effect that the artist is so well known for.

"His artistic discourse required deep and extensive reflection, a thorough historical, technological, and scientific research, mainly on the experiments of figures like Sir Isaac Newton, the impressionists, and Josef Albers, to name a few. He maintained this restless and detailed research throughout his career, as he liked to say: I do not get inspired, I reflect,” concludes the artist’s son. Cruz-Diez began studying the optical nature of colour in the early 60s and became interested in a phenomenon known as ‘after image’—a simple yet curious event, where sustained visual engagement with certain images produces a hallucination when one looks away. The visual artist was fascinated by the behaviour of the human eye itself, and leveraged it to his advantage. Over the years, Cruz-Diez ventured into larger formats and more immersive installations.

A viewer examining Cruz-Diez’s installation work | The Euphoria of Colour | Carlos Cruz Diez | STIRworld
A viewer examining Cruz-Diez’s installation work Image: Musthafa Aboobacker; Courtesy of Galleria Continua Dubai

Cruz-Diez’s work was a reflection of his experimental and exploratory nature. This was visible in his personal life as well as his professional practice. Cruz-Diez Jr tells us, “In my father’s life project, there was no difference between our home and the studio. This had two important consequences. Firstly, we all took an active part in everything that was happening in the studio and of what became in time a collaborative artistic adventure for the whole family. Secondly, the studio was always a lively place, where my father took great pleasure in creating his work. He loved life very much and for him, art and life were one and the same thing. Everything caused him curiosity and wonder.”

Cruz-Diez’s optical art is a result of the artist’s interest in art and science | The Euphoria of Colour | Carlos Cruz Diez | STIRworld
Cruz-Diez’s optical art is a result of the artist’s interest in art and science Image: Musthafa Aboobacker; Courtesy of Galleria Continua Dubai

Cruz-Diez’s work has been showcased across the globe, both during his lifetime and posthumously, and continues to be on view in permanent collections at notable venues like MoMA, Centre Pompidou and Tate Modern. His work has been curated in over 350 solo exhibitions, and is part of permanent collections at 96 venues. This art exhibition is an homage to the artist, his decades of practice, and his enthusiastic approach to life.

A portrait of Carlos Cruz-Diez Jr | The Euphoria of Colour | Carlos Cruz Diez | STIRworld
A portrait of Carlos Cruz-Diez Jr Image: Edgar Cherubini Lecuna; Courtesy of Galleria Continua Dubai
Walkthrough of the exhibition Video: Courtesy of Galleria Continua Dubai

The Euphoria of Colour will be on view at the Galleria Continua Dubai, Burj Al Arab Jumeirah, until January 31, 2023. 

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