Written by Naia Reed:
Mexican artist Victor Cruz is a landscape painter, but not of the usual kind of landscapes you see. Chasing a twist that he wanted to inject into his art, searching for a way to paint something that people had never seen before, determined to be different and also to highlight the many hidden beauty spots of his country, Victor took an Indiana Jones approach to his art and became possibly the first person on the planet to merge art with an extreme sport.
After sometimes trekking for hours through dense forest undergrowth, in humid conditions and carrying a huge selection of backbreaking supplies, Victor puts his life in the hands of his team of 6-8 professional cavers, or “brothers” as he refers to them, who assist him to descend into his natural and awesome studios to paint.
Victor searches out the many unknown natural caves and cenotes of the Mexican jungle; the secret, silent and often never seen before other-worlds, disguised and hidden by the foliage and rough terrain. These are often surrounded by huge, straight cliff faces and as Victor likes to paint his subject from the inside, with a unique perspective and birds eye view, this involves his team lowering him inch by inch into position by harness.
Where others simply squirt some paint onto a palate and get stuck straight into their creation, Victor’s canvas requires a slightly different approach. Armed with a specially designed easel and equipment box that sits in its own harness on his lap, complete with hard hat and steely concentration, Victor is now well accustomed to rappelling down 50 or 70m of rock face, into these gaping openings into the earth.
Hanging in Translation
As he hangs, silently suspended for hours, lost in the translation of what he sees and senses, he has learned to adapt to the spray of waterfalls, upwind gusts, swaying ropes and complete solitude and says the adrenaline, focus and mindfulness of the present moment are difficult to explain, but truly powerful. He explains that the sense of peace in these majestic and humbling places makes him forget the risk as he paints.
He enjoys intimately getting to know the hidden beauty of his country and hopes that one day his pieces will be exhibited in important art galleries around the world. He also hopes to draw attention to the alternative attraction that these caves offer for tourism. Victor discovered he’s not the only cave painter in the area…although the rivals left with the ice-age, he often sees the art they left behind.