by SARA GRACE C. FOJAS
Images by PINGGOT ZULUETA
In PJ Cabanalan’s world, there are three kingdoms: the Kingdom of True Bliss, which shows his various emotions of joy and bliss; the Kingdom of Neutral Remorse, where his feelings of being surprised and bored are released; and the Kingdom of Golden Darkness, symbolizing the worst moments of his life, which lead him to a place of strength and wisdom.
All of these kingdoms and all of PJ’s emotions were seen and felt in his recently concluded exhibit,“I Am My Own World,” at the Art Verite Gallery in Taguig City. The exhibit was created to show the various emotions in his mind, using his figures, his own style, and his own process.
“‘I Am My Own World’ was an exploration of my mind,” he says. “It was a window to things going on inside my head—my imagination, my thoughts, and my emotions. I created a world in my mind where I escape from the often messy, cruel, and harsh reality. In this world, I am the ruler and I can do whatever I want. Here, I am king.”
The exhibit, as its name suggests, was like stepping into this world. PJ splashed his emotions and the ideas on the four walls of the gallery, as he did on the walls of his brain.
“‘I Am My Own World’ explored my style, which is heavy on expressions—I like to express my feelings on a canvas,” he says. “I express my emotions and paint from my imagination. I don’t have a reference. I create my own process and I create my own subject.”
He also revealed that the hardest series he worked on is his Kingdom of the Golden Darkness. “In that series, I channelled all my negative emotions. Going back to sad feelings is very challenging but in that sadness, I also looked back on how I overcame it and how it strengthened me,” he says. “That series reminded me that, in order to achieve something, sometimes one must go through a dark path. It was also where I experimented with a new color scheme.”
Two years ago, when PJ stepped into the world of art, he fell in love with it. While in college, his classmates encouraged him to join various art competitions. As his interest grew, his environment and his imagination became his sources of inspiration.
“From being a rookie artist in 2018 to this day, art has made me fearless. It has made me more mature,” PJ says.“I am from Iloilo and the art here is not yet that highlighted, unlike in Metro Manila. In my studio, I like seeing the paintings I made when I was still in college. These pieces remind me of my beginnings. They are proof of my hardwork.”
In those two years of making art, PJ proved his talent to the world. He was recognized with a number of accolades. In 2018, he was the regional winner at the Philippine Art Awards and a finalist at the GSIS Art Competition-Oil/Acrylic Painting Non-Representational Category. In 2017, he won the grand prize at the Metrobank Art and Design Excellence-Oil/Acrylic Painting Category. He was also a semi-finalist at the 16th Vision Petron National Student Art Competition in 2016 and a finalist at the Metrobank Art and Design Excellence-Oil/Acrylic Painting Category in 2014.
PJ shares that it is through meditation that he is able to create art. Inside a simple payag-payag (small bamboo house) that he rents in Leon, Iloilo, he finds peace and connects with his art. “I channel my subconscious and let my imagination and emotions paint themselves,” he says.“I use seven layers of paint even on large canvases. I don’t stop painting until I am satisfied with what I see.”
From those moments of peace PJ has created his own world, hoping that the rest of the world will follow him to his kingdom.