Turn of the Tide: Jayson Cortez’s Pictorial Ruminations

December 6, 2023



Patrick de Veyra

Faced with a creative and existential “dead-end,” Jayson Cortez, found himself trapped in a state of chronic burnout after decades of uninterrupted studio practice. It was a disheartening period. But this creative drought and mental and physical fatigue unexpectedly ushered in a season of reframing and rebirth. For new and meaningful work to be produced, Cortez acknowledged the need to wholeheartedly accept the ebb and flow of his life.

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die… a time to break down, and a time to build up… a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together…”

– King Solomon

Beauty comes from rebirth as new life emerges from the ashes of what once was. Like the infinite sea that is ever-shifting yet unchanging, the enigma of life is that it calls for us to be ever-evolving yet unwavering. As Salvador Dalí once said, “Everything alters me, but nothing changes me.” To be and to become, such is the cosmic dance of life.

"Icon" by Jayson Cortez
“Icon” by Jayson Cortez

The Paradox of Change and Constancy

“I was on the verge of giving up on my artistic practice. Full stop, no turning back. I was having conversations with myself about quitting. Day and night, I was haunted by the thought of just painting the same imagery again and again without an end in sight. I needed to rediscover my creative voice in this season of my life. I needed to find myself again.” – Jayson Cortez

Echoing the words of Heraclitus, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” Change is the only thing constant.

From Burnout to Rebirth

As if tossed and turned by a succession of waves, Cortez momentarily felt lost at sea. He had to contend with the reality of fatherhood in today’s complex and oftentimes convoluted world. Not to mention the ever-changing cultural and geopolitical landscape.

Embracing his role as a father allowed him to explore, in a much deeper and deliberate sense, the image of the mother and child. For Cortez, the repeated depiction of the mother and child is his way of commemorating not only maternal affection but his role as husband and father.

“Painting the image of the mother and child is, for me, an act of love. With warmth and gratitude, I paint with a father’s gaze. I wholeheartedly embrace my role as a father by painting images that beautifully epitomize how I view my wife and my child. The symbolism of the mother and child also healed me of my fears about being a father in such a time as this. In fact, there are moments when I see myself being reborn much like the infant held by the mother in the painting. Innocent, curious, and free of fear.” – Jayson Cortez 

Artist Jayson Cortez with his wife and son
Artist Jayson Cortez with his wife and son standing in front of his piece, “Rebirth of Innocence”

Parenthood as a Source of Artistic Inspiration

The subject of a mother and child remains an enduring and indelible theme in art history since the Renaissance. It holds universal relevance as it highlights the primal and unbreakable bond between a mother and her child. For centuries, artists explored a complex range of concepts such as love, joy, tenderness, vulnerability, healing, renewal, and rebirth through the depiction of maternal affection.

A huge part of Cortez’s healing from burnout was reframing the mother and child as subject. But his visual language also evolved. Known for his fantastical compositions and surreal imagery painstakingly executed with an undeniable degree of hyperrealism, Cortez deviated from the image distillation, atmospheric quality, and color harmony of his past works.

He meticulously replicated photographs of objects and figures heavily drenched in white paint. Cortez believes the act of drenching objects, figures, and surfaces in thick white paint symbolizes both the ideas of obscurity/death and rebirth. With his subjects partially or wholly covered in white pigment, viewers perceive that which is familiar in a new light. Phantom objects and figures emerge behind the veil of white paint. Cortez’s body of work in his one-man show “Turn of the Tide” reflects the artist’s longing for personal healing, renewal, and rebirth.

A white mixed media sculpture of a woman on a horse entitled "Reinforcement"
Jayson Cortez's mixed media artwork depicting mother and child entitled "Rebirth of Innocence"
“Rebirth of Innocence”

About the artist

Jayson Cortez (b. 1986) is a Bulacan-based visual artist. His body of work revolves around personal notions on intimacy and memory; and the ideas of obsession and freedom. He has a flair for combining elements of photorealism with fantasy. The extensive use of symbolism in his pieces evoke a sense of nostalgia, mystery, and “magical surrealism”. Cortez primarily works with oil as a medium. However, he also utilizes found objects and sculptural processes to create installations that embody his fascination with the mysterious, the surreal, and the fantastical.

Cortez is fresh from his participation in the group show Leuco Dye at the Focus London 2023. He reveals his new series of works that touch on the theme of fatherhood, family, and rebirth.

Artist Jayson Cortez preparing his sculptural piece of a figure draped in fabric
The artist at work

Represented by White Walls Gallery, Jayson Cortez mounted several solo and group exhibitions. His work has been displayed in galleries and institutions in Manila, London, Milan, Singapore, and Ho Chi Minh.

Jayson Cortez graduated with an advertising degree at Bulacan State University.

Read more: Jefrë in Paris: A Global Triumph of Philippine Art

Download this month's BLUPRINT magazine digital copy from:
Subscribe via [email protected]