Jay Cabalu is a Filipino-born, Vancouver-based collage artist with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Kwantlen University. His practice includes a growing list of private commissions and, more recently, self-portraiture. In this digital age, Jay is interested in how social media and popular culture have informed our identities and perceptions of our world. Jay has exhibited in numerous spaces in Vancouver, such as the Federation Gallery, the Roundhouse, Hot Art Wet City and Ayden Gallery. In the Fall of 2015, Jay appeared on Season One of CBC’s Crash Gallery.
Cabalu is one of the participating artists for the ON/OFF Grid art exhibition (April 6 - June 2) at the Gene Siskel Film Center in conjunction with the FAAIM 23rd Annual Asian American Showcase which runs April 6 through April 18th, 2018. We asked him a few questions about his work and artistic practice!
1. Does your identity or personal story inform your work? Who/what inspires you?
Absolutely. As part of an immigrant family growing up in Canada, it was very clear to me by the age of four that I was displaced. Both my Filipino and Canadian identities seemed foreign to me. Popular culture became a refuge from alienation and much of it has grown up with me. Over time, I came to realize that it was problematic. I invested a culture that didn't reflect me and that created a lot of angst. By incorporating the evolution of popular culture in my collages, I try to speak to my cultural fixations as a boy, an adolescent and an adult.
I am inspired by social media and different forms of popular culture, whether high or low. I've been able to participate in social media as its transformed and grown into different platforms, inevitably altering the perception and presentation of myself. Those shifts can make for subtle changes in identity, for better or worse, and part of adapting to different forms of social media entails silliness, insecurity, and some stupidity. My work tries to both overcome and embrace all of that.
2. How has technology affected your creative process? Does this affect how you view or choose to interact with the world?
Photoshop and social media have come to play a big role in my work. I use Photoshop to play with different colour palettes and compositions before I get to the physical work, allowing me to lay out my options and quickly decide on aesthetic choices.
Sharing my work on social media has allowed me to approach people from a different place of vulnerability. Of course, much of what gets posted on social media and much of what becomes art is about showing off. In both cases, the worlds I create in my art and through Instagram or Facebook are not really grounded in reality, but merging these worlds allows me to expose myself in new ways. Whatever the audience's view of my work—brilliant or senseless, innovative or mundane —I hope that being vulnerable through my art at least prompts people to consider being equally vulnerable in and outside digital life.
3. How do you think digital formats impact your field and your audience?
In the medium of collage, a big part of the piece is lost in a condensed Instagramable file. The impact is much greater in person. Previously, I've been told that my collages look digital when viewed on a screen. As a result, I've started to embrace and enhance the tactile nature of what I do. I am tearing a lot more and carving onto the surface to reveal how fragile the material really is.
4. What do you think about AI?
It makes me anxious! Whenever you see artificial intelligence being explored in movies or television, it never seems like a good idea, but I guess we are going there anyway. I've started to be nicer to Siri.
5. What are you working on right now?
Currently, I am working on ways to exaggerate different social media tropes. I wanted "Reconciliation" to be an overblown selfie. I took the intentions behind that sort of post and really tried to push it. I've been inspired by artists who use themselves to comment on cultural movements and I want to participate as much as I critique. I think this is a fun and relevant way to explore identity and vanity in this era. I'm also interested in finding ways to show things that we don't necessarily want to share online. To me, social media profiles are these highly polished, idealized, untouchable alter-egos. We don't often show vulnerability on the internet and when we come across it online, it's awkward—we don't want to look at it, yet, we all have fears and insecurities.