Cropped, layered, painted and scanned: Joe Cruz’s intriguing practice depicts a medley of techniques
Having spent the last couple of years working to develop his methods, we catch up with Joe to hear more about his multi-layered process.
- Ayla Angelos
- 28 January 2021
There’s nothing more intriguing than a piece of work that keeps you guessing about how it’s made. Is it a photograph? Is it a painting? These are the questions posed while observing the creations of Joe Cruz, an artist born in London who went on to graduate from Norwich School of Art where he specialised in print making. It was during this education that Joe learnt the ropes of his trade, and being from a printmaking background would inform his entire working process to come.
In 2015, Joe graced our screens with his illustrative photographs of oil pastel marks and plenty of colour. At this time, he was living and working from home with his parents post-uni. He’d also developed a distinctive style, which subsequently garnered him attention and commercial success, later building a client base filled with work for Apple, Calvin Klein and Tiffanys. “The demand for one particular style of work began to feel frustrating and limiting,” he tells It’s Nice That. “I made a conscious decision to channel my energy into focusing solely on creating personal and collaborative works that edited me.” This includes a more playful approach with his process, one that steered towards experimentation and a new way of making imagery. “Over the years, I’ve been constantly building my repertoire of techniques, by introducing new working methods, incorporating new equipment (often redundant office equipment), creating multi-layered processes for creating tactile works and discovering new ways of capturing images.”
So that more or less sums up the new direction for Joe – a process that's been refined by using multimedia. Joe has always been creative, and his passion for the medium first blossomed in his childhood years where he’d draw all of his favourite football stars and cartoon characters. An active and hyper energetic kid that played a lot of sports, his parents were always in support of his creative pursuits. “I feel my love of sport and activity has fed into my art practice,” he adds, noting the parallels between the physical, energetic, instinctive and collaborative. “I’ll run my workshops and I’ll lead photoshoots like high adrenaline work out sessions!”
As for his influences, Joe finds it tricky to draw on one aspect in particular. But a key element that’s remained true til this day is that he’s constantly fascinated with old books, comics and prints – the type that you’ll find in a dusty charity shop or stumble upon at a car boot fair. These two spots are still places that he visits to get that much-needed dose of inspiration, which, over time, has evolved into an obsession with collecting film star books from the 1950s, “filled with highly saturated, slightly off-set images of the celebrities of the day.” Drawn towards their imperfection and tatty aesthetic, it gives Joe a connection to a time in the past and a drive to reinterpret these moments into his own visual language. Let’s just say you can imagine what his bookshelves must look like at home.
When making his pieces, Joe’s process always begins with an image. He’ll scour his sources to find photography, films from YouTube, scanner art, TV film stills or even pics from his phone before printing them out and achieving a more tactile quality – something he can play with. Referring to his background spent in printmaking, this technique sees Joe replicate and emulate the traditional method of printmaking. “Even the scanner photography feels more like printmaking to me than photography,” he adds. “The way the scans reveal themselves in motion across the digital screen mirrors exposing and printing a silk screen.” Joe also states on how it’s important that his work exists in the physical realm, which allows him to inject his personality and flair into the work – a move aided by his signature soft pastels and paints, or by layering, cropping and re-printing the image.
Within Joe’s portfolio of works you’ll stumble across a mammoth archive of imagery, each depicting a multifarious approach and a host of techniques combined in one. Boyhood is a body of work that incorporates a mix of re-photography, soft pastels, wax pencil, ink and later print, all the while reflecting on his own multicultural family history and rituals. “Assorted snapshots of online media are rendered with soft pastels and wax pencils,” he adds on his process. Meanwhile, Seven Sisters uses scanner photography and inkjet print techniques, depicting a series of portraits using generic desktop scanning hardware. “Each sitter travelled to my old studio in Seven Sisters to be scanned. "Both the process and outcome mirror classical portraiture mediums of photography and painting.”
Sexuality, belonging, cultural heritage and the “beauty of humankind” are all prevalent themes addressed throughout Joe’s works, marking him as a creator of variety. They each bring a sense of joy, inclusivity and mystery, he says, with an ultimate goal of wanting his work to “reach far and wide” and “inspire open-mindedness and reflection”. Currently working on a project with Hermes to proceed an installation and window displays – plus plans to open a solo show in Paris – we’re excited to see what's next for the artist.
Joe Cruz: Light Relief. (Copyright © Joe Cruz, 2020)
About the Author
Ayla is currently covering Jenny as It’s Nice That’s online editor. She has spent nearly a decade as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.