Janos DelaCruz

Enter the vivid dreams of Janos Delacruz through a private portal he calls art. Step into the wild world of his canvas stained by elusive memories of life pulled in all directions. Breathe in a world where things are not what they seem, where beauty is marked by the beast, and the beast holds the face of beauty. See through the chaos of concrete jungles and revel in his use of clever deceptions and cheeky revelations, playful puns, and artful dualities, all coming together to draw out and challenge the true nature of the viewer—innermost desires and disgust, in all its naked glory.

[caption id="attachment_134425" align="aligncenter" width="504"] Images by Pinggot Zulueta[/caption]

Named Jan Olympus Salvador Delacruz, the epic designation given to the artist is perhaps a foreshadowing of the richly textured and fascinating products that his manic creativity is destined to produce. Baptized after the Dutch master Jan Vermeer, surrealist king Salvador Dali, and the mythical and majestic House of God Olympus, even his last name denotes a legacy of art passed on from his father, the distinguished painter Fil Delacruz.

“I grew up being taught that painting was not just a hobby,” says Janos, “it’s a vocation. One important thing I learned from my dad, which is difficult to learn when you’re in college, is not to wait for inspiration. If you wait for inspiration, you can only paint probably only once a year. When I paint, I’m not always inspired. Sometimes it is a painful thing to look at a white canvas and say, ‘I’m going to make something out of it.’ The first line, the first step, is the hardest. But that is part of all great loves.”

Born in Sultan Kudarat, Cotabato, yet a thoroughbred Manila boy since moving to the Metro, Janos was immersed in art from the beginning, having grown up in a house where creativity was everyday routine. It is no surprise that his own personal muse drew him into her unrelenting clutches. “All of my work always starts off from a dream,” says Janos, “Random thoughts come out in a haze. I try to write it down or draw it.”

[caption id="attachment_134423" align="alignright" width="300"] Lover's Lane, oil on canvas, 2014[/caption]

His artistic maturity began in high school. Amid adolescent frenzy his need for catharsis turned him to the empty pages of leather-bound journals. “Writing was so exposed, so when I was a kid I would draw or paint it. The notebooks piled up, and I realized that every book had its own subject matter.”

By the time Janos was in junior high, he showed his works to the Madrigal Art Center where they adored his advanced creative spurts and offered the teen his debut solo exhibition. “My show was literally the pages of my journal,” he recalls. “There were even words, which were very personal. It’s like you’re naked. Something originally for personal consumption is shown to people and, of course, everyone has their own reaction. It was at that point that I realized I loved to paint because even though I disclosed something personal, it didn’t affect me because I really liked seeing reactions of the people. I don’t mind whether they love or hate my work, as long as they feel something.”

Catching a high from his communion with his viewers, Janos continued his pilgrimage to explore and excite audiences. Dedicated as he was, he went to the University of Santo Tomas to earn a degree in Fine Arts, “I took up Advertising because I wanted to know the mindset of my viewers,” he says. “I wanted to know what made them tick.”

The exchange of ideas between artist and viewer mediated through the artworks has been a constant source of inspiration for Janos. The medium becomes a breeding ground for his contemplations on society, and as he gives insight he also receives epiphanies in the process of creation and public reception.  “I like that a painting can mean one thing to one person and another thing to others,” he says. “As much as possible, I don’t want to be there to explain. I put a vague title about the meaning, because I want them to say something even if it’s contradictory to what I believe in.”

[caption id="attachment_134424" align="alignleft" width="179"] Milking Till the Last Drop, oil on canvas, 2013[/caption]

A fitting example is his most recent exhibition at the Cultural Center of the Philippines entitled “Kalamay.” “Kalamay,” in the Visayan dialect, means sugar, often associated with the sweet rice of Filipino noontime snacks. The root word, lamay, however, means vigil, or death. “How can one word mean something that is sweet but at the same time death?” Janos ponders. The massive creations displayed at the CCP during the show represent the chronicle of such ponderings with canvases bursting with rich elements and fine detail reminiscent of Aztec style.

These questions are not the only ones that have sparked Janos’ mind. Through other artworks he asks, “What if an episode of Sesame Street was written by Nietzche?” or “Is fastfood like religion?” in that they are at once indoctrination and idolatry like Catholicism, like cholesterol.

“It’s not anti-religion,” Janos says of his work Happy Meal Nation, which bursts with iconic imageries. “It’s an homage to the evolution of society. In my work I always have a clear vision of what I want, but through the course of the work the subject matter talks to me to add elements, so it always evolves.”

Being proficient at both painting and print making, Janos takes precautions not to be subjected to the confines of any one mode of expression, as his playful and oftentimes dark humor, will not take kindly to limits. “I want my work not to be defined based on the medium, but more on the overall aspect, because it is just a method, my way of interpreting a subject matter at this time,” he says. “But maybe next time it would be different. I always consider my previous work as a stepping stone for my next work because it helps me grow.”

Such growth can be seen in the six solo exhibitions that he boasts at such a young age, one of which includes an art exhibition at the Philippine Heart Center in New York. Like the heartfelt journals of his childhood that each formed a chapter sharing his coming of age, every exhibit presents a milestone for Janos in his journey toward artistic excellence.” In my first show, I learned you had to paint and work on things you felt,” muses Janos. “Never do artworks you don’t know, because it would look pretentious. In my second show, because I was doing prints, I learned that you had to have the thinking of an artist but at the same time the hands of a craftsman because in prints you had to be precise in mixing chemicals. In my third show I learned a lot, after New York I backpacked all over the eastern seaboard. I hopped on a bus and went around different galleries of different cities. It opened my eyes. That was the time I decided this was really what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”

There’s a saying, as Janos puts it, that “you will not work a day in your life if you love what you do.” By such decree, one can certainly say that Jan Olympus Salvador Delacruz is happily and deliriously unemployed.

Kalamay runs until May 11 at the Pasilyo Vicente Manansala (2F Hallway Gallery) at the Cultural Center of the Philippines Main Theater Building, Roxas Blvd. Pasay City.