Until 16th June Scream 27—28 Eastcastle Street London W1W 8DH www.screamlondon.com
Scream are to present the first solo exhibition of unique works by Chinese artist Jacky Tsai. Constantly evolving and re-inventing his creative output, Tsai is something of a hybrid whose practice encompasses a broad range of imagery, techniques and media. The fact that Jacky alludes to himself as ‘a collage artist’ is revealing in his approach to creating artwork and he comments, “my extremely mixed background definitely helped me to produce art differently”.
Originally born in Shanghai, China, Jacky moved to London in 2006 to study at Central St Martins College of Art and Design and has lived and worked in the capital ever since. Titled Eastern Orbit, Tsai’s solo exhibition addresses the cultural exchange between Asia and the West and the artist aspires to revolutionise contemporary Chinese art and combine Chinese craft and skill with Western Pop imagery. Having worked with British fashion designer Alexander McQueen, it was here that Tsai designed the now iconic floral skull motif and cemented Tsai’s reputation as an exciting and innovative designer. This design was the key symbol for Tsai to develop his artistic oeuvre and he explains,
“Many Chinese people are afraid of skulls, and to a certain extent so am I, but the skull image has become trendy in the Western world, especially in fashion and I was interested in this difference in perception in the East and the West. I wanted to see if I could change the attitude in the East towards the skull, so I tried to represent it in a beautiful way by using images of nature such as flowers, butterflies and birds to transform this previously ‘scary’ image. I wanted people to see the beauty in decay while commenting on the proximity of life and death.”
“Each piece takes a few months to make”, he explains, “I’m combining several different techniques to create my ‘fusion’ art”. All the pieces in this exhibition are unique works and Tsai’s signature floral skull has been exquisitely lacquer-carved, referencing Asia’s rich cultural heritage in the arts. Carved Lacquer ware, also known as ‘TiHong’ which literally translates as ‘Carving the Red’, is one of China’s traditional crafts. The process was first invented during the Tang Dynasty, more than 1600 years ago, and then later blossomed during the Ming and Qing Dynasty. The technique involves applying a natural lacquer on a wooden surface, then the delicate designs are carefully engraved. The panel is coated with several dozen layers of lacquer. Each layer has to dry naturally before applying the next to minimize cracks appearing in the future.”
The complicated manufacturing process and the high production costs resulted in very high prices. Traditionally only the royal family or wealthy businessmen could afford them. After the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, the vast working class people had little demand for such luxuries. ?Young people now are reluctant to learn the skills of lacquer-carving, and many elders in the business have passed away. Nowadays, there are only about twenty trained craftsmen left in China who have this skill. This ancient craft is on the brink of extinction.
Tsai is on a mission to preserve, reinvigorate and promote these unique traditions. The exhibition also includes Su Xiu embroidery on silk (originally from the city Suzhou near Shanghai) and Cloisonné, an ancient decorative technique using vitreous enamel and metal, adopted in China since the fourteenth century.