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JACKY TSAI | NEW LIMITED EDITION SCREENPRINTS

April 4th 2015
Jacky Tsai’s two brand new limited edition screenprints Save Empress Wu and War War War gained a fantastic response at recent art fairs in London and New York.

Since we first started showing Jacky Tsai’s work almost four years ago in the summer of 2011, we’ve published fourteen Eyestorm editions and two series’ of 15 unique playing cards, as well as representing two additional editions exclusively. Of these, nine have sold out in their entirety, with not many prints left from the remaining pieces. Jacky Tsai is surely one of our most popular artists and this success is surely set to continue.

The most recent of the Eyestorm editions are the eye-catching Save Empress Wu and War War War. Working in his signature collage style, in these two prints Tsai continues to explore the similarities and differences between East and West by merging images from both cultures to form two fantastical landscapes that sit somewhere between comic book and traditional Chinese illustration.

Plants and flowers native to Asia and often used as symbolism in Chinese art form the basis of the works, such as the small white plum blossom and the vibrant pink and crimson peonies which have been included to represent the prosperity of life. Accompanying this beautiful foliage are various birds including the peacock, which appears in both works. The peacock is a popular symbol in Chinese art because of its association with Kwan-yin, the East Asian deity of mercy in Asian spirituality who is an emblem of love, nurturing and kind heartedness.

Placed amongst this Chinese imagery in true Jacky Tsai style are recognisible icons from Western culture. In War War War American fighter planes surrounded by cartoon-style puffs of smoke fly upwards as if escaping out of the top of the page, while superman enters from the other direction, straddling what appears to be an atomic missile. Soldiers and army trucks also feature, proving to be a stark contrast to the tranquil Asian landscape they inhabit.

In the intriguingly titled Save Empress Wu, the main focus is on the narrative going on with a number of the characters in the centre of the page, where ‘Empress Wu’ is being saved from King Kong by two versions of Tarzan as Jane looks on from a distance. When I asked Jacky who Empress Wu is, he said she’s the main character in a Chinese television series called ‘The Empress of China’, which is based on the biography of Wu Zetian, the only woman in Chinese history to rule as an Emperor back in the 7th and 8th century. Reported to be one of the most expensive Chinese series’ ever made, the program was in the press shortly after its release at the end of last year because it was rated for being too racy. They believed the female characters were showing too much cleavage, so after being suspended for four days, the producers were forced to make some significant editing, and when it returned, the shots were either very wide or cropped in close to the characters’ faces so as not to show any offending flesh, resulting in an uproar from the general public. For Jacky, here King Kong represents the authorities who attacked the program, which is represented by the empress.

The process involved in making these prints was, as often with Jacky’s work, a new process for the artist in that instead of taking the option to print half digitally as a Giclee and the other half as a scrennprint, a CMYK screenprint formed the basis of each image, which was then built up with layers of screenprinted colours, no less than 8 on each print. By working in this way it means the prints are 100% screenprinted with no digital element at all, and the CMYK provides the perfect technique for the more traditional looking elements such as the flowers and other foliage. Jess at Jealous print studio made these prints and she has been fantastic throughout the whole process; they’re complicated works and take some patience, but I think all that see them will be impressed by their beauty, which of course is down to the execution as well as the imagery.

As with previous works such as Surf (2011) and Flying Tiger (2012), Save Empress Wu and War War War display similarities to wallpaper, due to their patterned characteristics, no doubt influenced by the artist’s love of fashion and textiles. Therefore it seems appropriate that the prints are torn down to the image, with no white border at all, giving the appearance of continuation.

If those familiar with Jacky Tsai’s work can see a progression in these works from previous print editions, they’ll be right, and this is because his print work moves in the same direction as his originals in order to work alongside them. For me, these are some of his best yet, and judging by their response in London and New York in March, I think others will agree.

Save Empress Wu and War War War are each 12-colour screenprints, signed and numbered by the artist in editions of 60, and priced at £2390.00 each. See them in more detail here.
ANGIE DAVEY
Creative Director
 
JACKY TSAI JACKY TSAI
Save Empress Wu War War War
 
 
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