The artist Cryptik probably couldn’t have chosen a more mysterious name. And his art succeeds in living up to the enigmatic aura his name creates.
In his new show “Sacred Syllables,” Cryptik showcases an art that is delicate and complex and takes a certain focus to fully appreciate. This artist manages to make bold street art and more foreign, delicate pieces. Taking inspiration from Sanksrit, Hebrew, Arabic, Hindi and Cholo characters, Cryptik has crafted his own version of calligraphy that pervades his art.
Cryptik is no stranger to Hold Up Art gallery, which houses the exhibition. He was one of many participants in the “Hi-Graff” exhibition, which opened last May and was dedicated to street art and included other prominent street art figures such as Cache.
Hold Up frequently welcomes controversial, unique and intriguing art and artists; Cryptik’s work is no exception. But what distinguished him the most was that he took full advantage of the room for “Sacred Syllables,” allowing viewers to walk freely and fully experience his art. The exhibition is only on the first floor of the gallery, but somehow Cryptik packs a lot of works into the small space.
The middle wall is a large rendition of his piece “Cryptik Ghandi,” a mixed media work probably familiar to some street art fanatics. The piece is also fittingly on display on the street across from the newly-built, exotic grill Wurstküche, not too far from the gallery, among works by Banksy and other street artists.
Inside the gallery, the work is even more stunning as Gandhi’s large face is surrounded not by the work of other street artists but by carefully chosen materials that create a complex background.
On either side of this large work are small stations of sorts, filled with various works created by Cryptik and props, such as bags of leaves and rice, that add to the atmosphere. At first, the scenes are set up to seem as if they were just that—scenes from some sort of foreign film, complete with items like prayer flags and lit candles.
Upon closer inspection, viewers will see that a lot of Cryptik’s works are buried within these intricate settings. This is what sets the exhibition apart from past ones — the viewer has to look closely to find Cryptik’s work but when they do, it’s obvious that much expertise and thought go into every object he makes.
The artist purposefully chooses certain objects in which he prints his trademark calligraphy. For instance, Frames hold a variety of objects, the smallest of which are leaves. Specifically, certain pieces features calligraphy on bodhi leaves, which are central to Buddhism. The way Cryptik arranges the calligraphic characters makes for a mesmerizing visual experience, and this text is even more impressive on such a small, delicate surface. Most of the works are placed in antique frames, giving them an even more intriguing, mysterious quality.
Cryptik’s versatility works to his favor as he manages to show off his skills on a variety of canvases without overwhelming the viewer. The silkscreen print “Copper Ganesha” is a dizzying composition of lines that creates an impressive sense of movement. The background of the piece meshes different elements, but keeps to an admirably simple color palette of white, brown and black.
His “Black and Gold Mantra” calligraphy, made with acrylic on paper, also makes good use of simple color, using black and gold to create an intriguing mix. The colors pop up in other pieces as well, showing that he can take these colors and make them spellbinding when they are paired with flowing, delicate calligraphy in varying sizes.
Cryptik doesn’t just stick to antique-looking aesthetics though. He injects the show with some modernity by placing his art on decks, the flat part of a skateboard, and also creating T-shirts with some of his trademark images. The canvases might seem anachronistic, but the art transfers well and gives the more modern surfaces an exotic twist.
At first glance, Cryptik’s work might seem simple but when you look closely it’s obvious that quite the opposite is true. The calligraphy is exquisitely made, the canvases creatively chosen. “Sacred Syllables” is an exercise in slowing down and really looking at a piece to take in all it has to offer.