© Alix @typic.alix

"I want my work to raise questions, to arouse curiosity."

An interview with Steven Cruz — Visual Artist

8 September 2022

Steven Cruz, born in 1996 in Luxembourg, is a 26-year-old visual artist of Portuguese origin. After studying art at the Lycée des Arts et Métiers in Luxembourg, he moved to Lisbon and obtained a degree in design at the IADE. He did a one-year Erasmus in Athens to deepen his knowledge in visual arts and design and more recently obtained a master's degree in plastic, visual and spatial arts at ESA saint-luc in Brussels. For his master's projects, Steven is interested in the art of the ceramic tile.

Steven is one of the 10 winners of the MAD Graduation PrizeHe receives a cash prize and coaching sessions by MAD to boost his professional career. Next to this, he will exhibit his graduation project 'Faggot' from 16 September to 5 November at MAD Brussels. 

In your opinion, what are the essential qualities to start studying art and design? 

"During my second year at esa saint-luc, as I had more freedom in my creation, it helped me to discover myself as an artist.

Now that I've finished I would say that to start studying design, visual arts you have to be quite creative and have the desire to design. It is important to always go further than the guidelines given by the teachers. Researching and documenting your subject brings a lot to the project, it's where you really learn, where you challenge yourself. It allows you to question yourself and build a project that will stand out.


How would you define your work? 

"I try to convey controversial facts in a visual and poetic way, combining the beautiful and haunting with a more raw and ugly truth."

"My inspiration often revolves around the LGBTQIA+ community, women discrimination, immigration, minorities and environmental issues. In order to combat the heteronormative gaze, I look for that specific provocation that triggers emotion. To me, the importance lies in the consistency and untold story behind every artwork."

"I try to convey controversial facts in a visual and poetic way, combining the beautiful and haunting with a more raw and ugly truth."

Steven Cruz

Why did you focus on tile art for your graduation project ? 

"Being of Portuguese origin and having lived in Lisbon for a few years I was inspired by tile art, which can be seen all over Portugal, in castles, houses, churches. Tiles are often used to represent royalty, clergy or everyday life. The Azuléjo tile, for example, arrived in Portugal during the colonisation. Portugal was a major colonial power in the 1500s. For me, the Azuléjo tile symbolises the power of the white European man who colonised the world and gradually gained power at the expense of other communities."

"I wanted to try a project with ceramics for a long time, so in the first year of my master's I started a project with earthenware tiles and chose to use the same material for my graduation project, but with a different theme. My starting point for the project was the decolonisation of Portugal. I did a lot of research on the origins of Azuléjo tiles and I wanted to represent traditional scenes using the codes and norms of our current society within different themes."

What are the recurring themes in your work?

"I try to break with social, ideological and gender norms in my work, I tackle controversial subjects. My project has to have a certain aesthetic. It has to be visually beautiful but also exciting and thought-provoking."

"During the event 'Balance ton bar' at the Kunstberg in Brussels in 2021, I heard several speeches about women being drugged in bars. That made an impression on me and inspired me for my first master project at esa saint-luc. My project 'Here comes the bride' is a tile project that symbolises women who are victims of domestic violence. The project shows tiles on the wall and tiles on the floor. This was my way of showing the statistics of the number of victims of domestic violence. The fallen tiles are the victims who died. The ones that remain on the walls are those who suffer in silence and whose situation is still unknown."

"For my graduation project titled 'Faggot', I wanted to glorify minorities, symbolise phallocentric society with an orgy of powerful men proposing flattery and deciding the fate of women and oppressed minorities. Detaching my work from the wall by placing it on the floor symbolises the fragility of the concept of masculinity."

"I always do a lot of research. I think it's important to document and discuss. I haven't experienced the same things as women, I'm not non-binary or trans, but I can continue to learn and think about things. I hope my projects can be an educational tool on different subjects. I learned a lot about my community during my graduation project. Sometimes we are trapped in little bubbles and we can't get out. I'm gay and I stay in my gay bubble and if I don't talk to women, non-binary people, trans people, I don't know how they experience life. When people see my work, I want them to ask themselves questions, to be curious." 


How do you see the future?

"I would like to collaborate with different artists and on different art projects, related to ceramics, photography or other. I hope this MAD Graduation Prize will give me contacts and beautiful projects. I recently participated in a photo competition in Luxembourg called 'Generation Art', which will be broadcast on television from September 17."

  © Alix @typic.alix
  © Steven Cruz
  © Steven Cruz
  © Steven Cruz
  © Steven Cruz