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Elio Cruz: “One Man, Many Talents” and Virtual Tour

Rosario Pérez | Photo & Footage: Fran Montes

Elio Cruz: “One Man, Many Talents” and Virtual Tour

A commemorative exhibition was held in Gibraltar to celebrate one of the Rock’s most prominent international artists Elio Cruz and his two greatest passions: painting and the theatre…

“Don’t ever believe anybody who says that ‘because they’ve been away from Gibraltar for a long time they have forgotten what it is to be a Gibraltarian’ don’t believe them – yo soy tan llanito hoy como cuando el día que naci”. This was a statement by Elio Cruz himself (1931-2019), which could be found at the “Elio Cruz: One man, many talents” exhibition, organised by the Gibraltar Cultural Service and opened during the first few weeks of 2020 under the title “One Man, Many Talents”.

Elio Cruz Art

The exhibition was a tribute to Cruz’s artistic career and life’s work. It took up several rooms within the John Mackintosh Hall, the cultural centre of Gibraltar, where visitors and observers not only enjoyed his art, but could also delve into his career as a writer. Cruz was a successful playwright; a lover of the performing arts, and he also made a few incursions into acting. His most celebrated comedy, “La Lola se va pa Londre”, took pride of place at the exhibition.

In relation to Elio Cruz ‘the painter’, the exhibition included works that he himself had donated to the Government of Gibraltar’s art collection during his lifetime, as well as unseen pieces from private collections. The cream walls of the Gallery were inundated with colour, decorated with many of the artist’s canvases, including his prize-winning pieces, such as the “Hibiscus Tree” (awarded in 1960) and the “Portobello Table” (1966).

Eli Cruz Artist Gibraltar

Cruz’s collections were painted over five decades, many of which had not previously been seen by the Gibraltarian public. Cruz begun painting in the 50’s, but it was not until the 60’s and 70’s that he reached his greatest period of productivity. As explained at the exhibition itself, curated by Seamus Byrne, Alice Mascarenhas and Davina Barbara, the versatile Gibraltarian artist only gave titles to a handful of his paintings and drawings, and had not marked the date on any of them.

Art

He was, in any case, a creator ahead of his time. Cruz was meticulous and disciplined, he found inspiration in nature and organic formations and yet his work was marked by an architectural eye, clean and devoid of disorder, in a similar style to Nordic prints. Occasionally, echoes of the majestic shape of the Rock slipped into his paintings, as if the memory of his homeland continually made itself known in his most inspired work.

A Playwright who Wrote in English and in Llanito

Elio Cruz Theatre London

Elio Cruz was a co-founder of the “Group 56” theatre group together with Luis Azzopardi and Cecil Gómez. As a playwright, his most successful works, which could be found at exhibition are: “La Lola se va pa Londre” (1966) and ” Connie con cama camera en el comedor” (1969).

Cruz spent much of his life in London; the city he grew up during the Gibraltar Evacuation; the city which he went on to fall in love with. He wrote both in English and Llanito, and did not shy away from the stylistic influences that he picked up from the other side of the frontier, taking inspiration from the zarzuela genre and Spanish comedies.

Quotes by Elio Cruz could be found on explanatory labels throughout the exhibition, in one of these he recalled how, during his youth, he would attend performances by Spanish theatre companies at the Theatre Royal and the Calpene Group in Irish Town, gripped by excitement: “One of the most exciting things in the world is those 15 minutes before the curtain rises,” he wrote, perhaps not knowing then that he would end up becoming the author of numerous performances.

In addition, the exhibition displayed Cruz’s other signed works, such as “Miracle in a patio” (1957), “The Message” (1960), “Cuando baje la Lola” (1967), “Librada al aire libre en La Alameda”(1970),“ Duérmete Daddy Joe ”(1971) and“ LMNOP ”(1992), among others. His final outstanding play was entitled “Vicky / Telling tales not suitable for children” (2013) which was the only performance by Elio Cruz that was written exclusively in English.

Eli Cruz Photography Gibraltar

The organisers of this tribute to this great Gibraltarian artist did not forget to include excerpts from when Cruz was flirting with photography, poetry and music… he founded a group called ‘Los Trovadores’ and wrote lyrics for the song “La Virgencita de Europa”, which he jointly composed along side Louis Díaz. This song nearly became the national anthem for Gibraltar.

Elio Cruz: “One Man, Many Talents” and Virtual Tour

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