Jon Jaylo is an escape artist. With the fantastic characters of his surreal narrative, he creates within the canvas new worlds. Not necessarily alternate realities, but rather an alternative perception of reality and an inspired reading of the extraordinary in the ordinary, giving a chance for people to escape their burdens and be whisked to a place where imagination is nurtured and nothing is impossible. He is more than just a painter, he is also a magician, giving an alternative to life by creating an aesthetic performance that elicits the familiar wonder and imagination that was beaten out by the dreary routine of life.
''Four years old, I knew then I really wanted painting. It was my first love, to draw and paint. So I knew then, ito ang gusto ko, paglaki ko. I would sketch it then paint it then sell it for like 25 cents to my classmates,'' he says, recalling his early childhood in Chicago, Illinois. His early discovery prompted him to render on paper the usual daydreams of a young child: heroes and villains, comic books and characters. This provided a cathartic and therapeutic outlet, in the process dealing with the changes that marks every painful passage into adulthood in a manner which carried on to his current creative process.
''I think the whimsical part, it has a lot to do with my past as a kid,'' he speculates. ''Growing up without a mom, no one explains things, how you move on and stuff like that. It was very hard for me, and my only escape was to dream. You know look at the clouds, dream about flying, stuff like that. That helps you move on, let go of the pain, doon nanggaling yung whimsical part eh.''
He came back shortly before high school, to pursue the rest of his studies in Manila. He went on to take up Advertising at the Far Eastern University. His passion for the brush never wavered, keeping up appearances in art competitions along with his other contemporaries. However shortly before graduating, an airbrush business venture he pioneered boomed and became an enormous success, and along with welcoming his new family, his days were so hectic he found himself unable to spend time painting as he used to.
With his natural intelligence and dedication, he managed to raise a family and cultivate a successful business during that time he took a hiatus from painting. But a twist of fate reminded him to get back to the greatness he was destined for.
''I saw one of my friend's paintings, and it was exhibited in Megamall,'' he recalls. ''I was fascinated because from college he was still painting till now. Sabi ko, 'Parang sarap naman ng ganon.' Anyway, we got connected and he helped me join group shows and stuff like that, pabalik na ulit. I was very happy and grateful.''
Slowly, but surely, he went back to work. He applied himself to his craft as a new man, unleashed and passionate to be doing what he loved. He says: ''When I came back I asked myself, what can I contribute to the Philippine arts? What can I offer? Every one is pretty good and so ano kaya pwede kong mailagay? I got to think it over, I had to change. Before may pagka social realism, tungkol sa government, tungkol sa kahirapan. I wanted to stay away from it, be more inspiring. I've seen people really jump from joy ng nakita niya yung piyesa. I've seen people cry. Doon ako natuwa eh, talagang painting (is a) way to really move people; it depends on how you really present it. Of course you have to present it with all your heart dapat.''
Inspiration playing a big part, Jaylo harnessed a lot of the input he got from being a voracious reader of the works of Hemingway, Steinbeck, Marquez and Caroll, paying homage to their works and their mind with his art. He observes: ''May mundo ang pagpipinta, may sarili ding mundo ang pagbabasa eh.''
The style that he is now known for did not come by easy; however his openness and determination to learn worked to his advantage. He says, ''It was a gradual, hit and miss kinda thing. I'm an artist na hindi sarado eh. I listen to opinions and advice. It's a work in progress, so I carefully study what people think, and how they react to a typical artwork also, so I keep that in mind.''
His current exhibit at the Ayala Museum, ''Duo,'' opened last August 1 and will run until August 14. Featuring 12 pieces, Jaylo plays with the idea of duality, exploring the opposing forces that bring the world together. In pushing the idea of harmony of opposites, Jaylo asked the talented poet, philosopher and artist Danny Sillada to collaborate, mounting an accompanying poem for each piece, giving a literary dimension to each work and a deeper appreciation of the image. He elaborates: ''There's a verse in Ecclesiastes that inspired me. Yung duality niya eh, time to heed and a time to laugh. I noticed that most of us, gusto lagi masaya. Gusto laging maganda ang buhay, but in reality even sa Bible, there are seasons na merong masaya, at meron ding malungkot eh, kailangan yung isa eh. How can you describe someone na mabuti kung hindi mo alam yung masama?'' It is a storybook, reminiscent of the days when upon opening a book we were transported to another world. Here, we have a glimpse of Jaylo's limitless imagination.
Despite the great success that he has found, one important factor as an artist remains the same. ''I've always wanted na pag pumunta ka sa exhibit maiba yung mundo mo. Tatakas ka sa realidad, sa araw-araw na trabaho, sa problema. Ta-travel yung mind mo. That's what I want, I was fortunate enough that a lot of people were saying a lot of good things with what I did, and I'm very happy that I've connected with them. Even though parang in another place yung painting ko, I can still connect with a lot of people so, happy ako doon. As a surrealist artist you have to evolve, you have to change, you have to keep growing, you don't stop learning. I want to connect with people through my art, and if I can serve as an inspiration din to everyone it would be really nice.''
''Duo'' by Jon Jaylo runs until August 14, 2012 at the Ayala Museum in Makati City. For inquiries, call West Gallery 411-0336 or visit www.westgallery.org.