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Meet Filipino Sculptor Daniel dela Cruz: Esoterica – An Exploration of Identity

| November 1, 2015

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A set of vintage brown wooden front doors welcomes you inside Filipino sculptor Daniel dela Cruz’s home in Pasay City, Philippines. Step inside and it’s a sensory overload with artifacts, paintings and his latest art pieces from his collection entitled Esoterica are showcased in a gallery-like setting.

Always on the hunt for new ways to challenge his artistry, dela Cruz calls his latest 20 art pieces as a collection of unique but valuable objects. Look closely, most are anthropomorphic animals – a concept known as the attribution of human form or other characteristics other than humans that are often found among deities and animals.

For dela Cruz, the collection is about an exploration of identity – in all shapes and forms.

Filipino Sculptor Daniel Dela Cruz

Filipino Sculptor Daniel Dela Cruz

“Anamorphic art has been with man since the beginning of time” – dela Cruz

From the Greek word esoterikos or “pertaining to those within,” dela Cruz’s Esoterica draws viewers to notice various elements that he strives to encapsulate for each of his art pieces: from the choice of animal head, the positioning of the body to the props used like that of mirrors.

“It’s one way to see ourselves and another way on how others would see us,” says dela Cruz in his deep baritone voice while sipping his coffee. “We may look in the mirror or see ourselves as a person, but sometimes we feel differently and look differently from what other people see. It’s like identity. It’s really hard to express.”

For one, dela Cruz describes one art piece with a head of an owl, the body slumped and pensive.

“The holding of a mirror reflects what he sees and the other side of the mirror is a face of a man. And on his leg, there’s a mask. There’s a lot of identities and personalities in each of us. And that’s what makes us whole,” says dela Cruz

According to him, glass vitrines have been placed on some of his art pieces to emphasize voyeurism – an element similar to the country’s culture of Santo Niño adoration.

“Vitrines would protect the image from being destroyed and, in a way, how people are treated [in a certain] way. They’re put inside a vitrine, and they’re being stared at by people. It’s like figuring out our identity and how we see ourselves when people view us,” he says.

 “Working with my hands has always been part of me” – dela Cruz

dela Cruz graduated with a major of Philosophy at the University of the Philippines and went on to work in the field of industrial product design that has allowed him to travel to the United States and Europe and, more importantly, where he has also learned the finer points of different types of metals.

It’s only at the age of 40 did he start pursuing his childhood dream to become a sculptor. And in 2007, he had his first exhibition.

“At the beginning of my career in sculpting, I was known for the Rubenesque women, and I’ve always felt that when you see a beautiful piece of art, or you look for the beauty of the figures… I’ve always wanted to portray the real people rather than the ideal which is not attainable for most of us,” he says.

While some artists choose to have some of their works without titles, for dela Cruz, titles help tell stories. They’re as important as the way the hands and the body are positioned. Whether it’s Conceal Not the Truth or Soul Searcher, they’re also meant to reflect the deep, rooted subconscious secrets that some might not always see.

Asked about why his model figures are sitting down this time around, it’s about “the positions that we’re in when we’re analyzing ourselves or trying to or being analyzed by someone, you’re being vulnerable,” he says.

Women have become a major inspiration for dela Cruz’s art pieces since his first collection. Esoterica is no different regarding the portrayal of women. It’s just different.

“What drives me now is that every time I make an exhibit, there has to be a big step up or a ‘wow’ factor to it – a factor from the viewer. One of the things that I try to make sure of is that my art doesn’t become stagnant… To try something new so the inspiration is not a personal challenge but also the belief that each time I can still do things not better, but differently,” he says.

“Mirage”, “Reflection”, “Inviolate” and “I Weep for Narcissus”  by Daniel dela Cruz

“Mirage”, “Reflection”, “Inviolate” and “I Weep for Narcissus” by Daniel dela Cruz/ Photo: Jefferson Mendoza

Philippine Art Scene: Vibrant & Exciting

According to dela Cruz, it takes him up to a year or even two years to produce a collection to exhibit. But he can’t contain himself: it’s an exciting time to be an artist and an art collector in the country.

“The industry is very much alive,” he says. “the young artists are becoming very, very good. People are starting to appreciate the value of art. It wasn’t there 10 or 15 years ago.”

Last month, dela Cruz’s Esoterica was featured at the Art Verite’ Gallery at Bonifacio Global City and was preparing for Art Fair Philippines. He’s also planning to travel to Singapore in the near future.

dela Cruz is no strange to Hong Kong’s art scene. Last April 2015, his collection “Women of My World” art pieces were featured at the bi-annual Asia Contemporary Art Show.

But he also describes the danger of losing sight that some art collectors might have. dela Cruz says it’s more than just buying art for investment sake.

“For me, it should not be the basis for buying the work of art… So what’s important is not to lose sight of what you do and what you’re doing it for,” he says.

Proud of his works and the Filipino culture, dela Cruz encourages everyone to look at the stories of his art pieces such as in the case of his Esoterica collection.

“People need to realize that there is a beautiful and unique art in the Philippines. And for our kababayans to give them some pride among fellow Filipinos that we’re world class in what we do,” dela Cruz says.

By Jefferson Mendoza, Contributing Editor. For questions or story ideas, email him at Jefferson@hkpinoytv.com

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