The Candy-Coated Commentary of Jacqueline Mak

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The work of Toronto-based collage artist Jacqueline Mak is a marriage of the playful and the deranged. Geishas watch nuclear bombs, doctors get to work on porn stars, a giant whale consumes the River Thames. The images, broken into their individual components, are not terrifying in themselves. Together, though, they serve to create something deeply unsettling, where wry social and political commentary lives beneath a candy-coated veneer.

In a previous life, Mak served as an art director for two of the biggest ad giants in the world, Ogilvy One and BBDO Asia. Her collage work is now a full-time gig, and she’s been quickly put on the radar of many art/design sites of note. Few people can start a dialogue on sex, commerce, or religion in such an aesthetically pleasing way as Mak can. It’s like she’s sticking bitter pills in ice cream; you don’t realize what you’ve taken until it’s good and down.

Below, we talk to Mak about early efforts, cardinal sins, and encounters with faith and chance.

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Jacqueline Mak, Don’t Bite the Hands That Feed You, 2016.

When did you start making collages—and why?

I started digital collage late 2016 while on my break at work, so I powered up a new canvas and started cutting out flower petals. Then it started to literally flourish.

Was it any good?

It’s special since it is my very first piece I ever made. She became part of a series called Idioms, titled “Don’t Bite the Hands That Feed You.”

What can you accomplish with collage that you can’t with other mediums?

An encounter with faith and chance is a very lovely feeling when you see two pieces of absolute difference coming together to fit perfectly like a puzzle.

Your work seems fitting for a particular type of cultural/political environment. Is that something that influences your work?

On occasions, but I find myself always subconsciously linking it back to political or cultural influences.

What issues are you most interested in and why?

Mental illness, pedophilia, human trafficking, and double standards are topics that tug on my heartstrings because, personally, I have experienced three out of the four.

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Jacqueline Mak, Big Like Thumbs from ‘Let’s Eat’ series.

What issues are you exploring?

The Let’s Eat series is an allegory of morbid consumption that is deteriorating human morality under the guise of cardinal sins.

Where do you find the materials you work with?

Open source Wikipedia, Value Village, thrift stores.

How do you decide to delve into a particular theme?

I get this really urgent pounding in my heart called a gut feeling. That’s when I know an idea has sparked, so I rampantly start it.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

“There are lots of kind, authentic, creative people out there. Befriend them. Keep your eyes open. Find mentors whose lives align with your dreams. When a door opens, walk through it. Say yes to opportunities. Don’t measure your success on anyone else’s scale or by anyone else’s timeline but your own.” – Lisa Robinson, colleague and friend

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