“A Day in the Life” with hand-cut collage artist, Jay Cabalu

Jay Cabalu was born in the Philippines and lived briefly with his family in Brunei before relocating to BC’s Lower Mainland. From a young age, Jay realized that the images of society depicted in magazines and on TV fell short in representing the Filipino, Asian, and queer people comprising his community. Jay’s artistic practise has evolved over the past decade as critique and correction to the failures of popular media’s attempts to depict Jay’s everyday reality.

Sifting through the magazines and comic books he has been collecting since childhood, Jay cuts and rearranges mass media images from his collections to create work brimming with humour and horror. His portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, for example, features a Burberry logo lodged in the queen’s forehead while Big Ben explodes behind her. In the background of another portrait, a model dressed as a soldier pulls down the waistband of his shorts while elsewhere a mushroom cloud rises up above the word “Laugh” in bubble letters. By reappropriating the visual language of advertisements and popular media, Jay inverts depictions of pleasure and luxury to portray a world overflowing with contradictions. Sex and violence, normalized absurdity, and beautiful chaos all come to mind when I look at Jay’s collages. As closely as I look at his works, they always leave something new for me to find the next time I take a look.

Written by Matthew Neckelmann – friend

Jay Cabalu
Shelves of magazines, and images sorted into plastic bins sorted by colour and theme help make my process more efficient.
Jay Cabalu
I became a morning person this year and love mornings with coffee in bed, books, watching the news and fun videos before starting my day. I’ve hung this my piece Bouquet here before it is installed in my show.
Since I work from home, I store all my art where I can. My Britney Spears portrait greets me in my foyer when I come home.
In process shot of my Queen Elizabeth II portrait. You can see where I’ve drawn her image in sharpie to collage over.
I tape clippings to the wall sometimes if I don’t want to lose a particular image, if I want to remember an idea, or if I’ve found an image I like, but don’t know which bin to sort it in yet.
My desk is rarely clear, usually covered in clippings. I’ve swept clippings to the side after a studio session.
Jay Cabalu
I’m working on the floor here because the panel I’m using is too big for my easel
Jay Cabalu
What my apartment has looked like during the making of my show. Art and bins everywhere. Organized chaos.

***

Which ‘hood are you in?

My apartment, which is also my art studio, is near South Granville.

What do you do?

I’m a Pop artist and I create intricately detailed collages, ranging from celebrity portraits, self-portraits and other subjects. Though my work can sometimes look like painting, it is 100% hand-cut collage.

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently wrapping up work on my first solo show Extra, opening May 7th at On Main Gallery in Chinatown. Extra is a classic Pop art show, with lots of iconic portraits and pop culture commentary on socio-political issues collaged in a way that reflects my personal worldview. Pop art at its core has always been a critique of modern consumer culture, which I think is as important a conversation as it was during the 50s and 60s when the genre began. In keeping with this tradition, I’ve used celebrities, politicians and iconography to provoke and complicate conversations about capitalism, colonialism, nationalism, war and the environment.

Where can we find your work?

You can find my work online on my website and Instagram. In person, May 7th- 28th at On Main Gallery on #427-265 Keefer St. We are having an open reception from 2-5 pm on Saturday, May 7th and I will be present to connect with guests. Looking forward to it!