Best known as the creator of the iconicfloral skull image made for late British fashion designer Alexander McQueen’s Spring/Summer 2008 Menswear collection, Jacky Tsai combines traditional Chinese painting techniques and references with western Pop Art styles. Clearly influenced by the artist’s move to London from his native China in his early 20’s, Tsai’s work embraces two cultural extremes by fusing social imagery associated with east and west to produce works which are both conceptual and aesthetically pleasing in equal measures. In his limited edition print from2012, ‘Flying Tiger’, Chinese dragons and Jackie Chan lookalikes in kung fuposes are combined with images of American fighter planes, and in ‘Surf’(2011), western-style cars and helicopters are placed into a traditional landscape, merging with Chinese flowers, which are a reoccurring theme in Chinese art and poetry with each flower having a different symbolism and meaning.
Even more poignant perhaps than the bringing together of these two extremes is Tsai’s desire to dispel attitudes of fear and superstition prevalent in Chinese culture, in relation to the human skull, death and decay. Via his experience as an expat as well as an artist, he channels nostalgia forthe conditions of his past to concentrate effort and encouragement on the emergence of beauty within the symbol of the skull – playing with concepts ofregeneration within the cycle of life.
Limited edition screenprints ‘FloralSkull’ (2011), ‘Soul Harvest’ and ‘Golden Harvest’ (2012), and ‘Vermilion Garden’ and ‘Vermilion Light’(2013) are based around the McQueen skull imagery as flowers, birds and butterflies representing life are used to form the shape of a symbol associatedwith death. In ‘Golden Harvest’ and ‘Vermilion Light’, real gold and palladium leaf was hand laid onto each print, and with edition sizes low, these works offer something a little more exclusive to more serious collectors. ‘Vermilion Light’ also has the extra ‘wow’ factor, supplied by the use of glow in the dark ink within the skull imagery.
Tsai has a fixation with flawlessness, sharp graphic skills and tenacity. ‘Stained GlassSkull’, his limited edition print released in late 2013, pioneers more challenging ideas as the skull is presented as a pagan symbol placed in to thecontext of Christianity whilst giving the appearance of an illuminated Calaveraor Mexican ‘sugar skull’. The work is possibly his most daring achievement in his quest to fuse cultural extremes.
The magnificent ‘GamblingSkull’ (2014) suite is Eyestorm’s sixth screenprint edition with Tsai, and sees the artist take imagery from the Chinese gambling world. Large in scale and mimicking the shape and form of a regular playing card, the series is made up of 15 unique pieces, each representing a different card from the deck, Ace through to King with two Jokers in the suit of diamonds. ‘GamblingSkull’ draws our attention tothe gambling scene in China, which is a huge industry. The mouth of the skull has been created by tiles (representing teeth) from the popular Chinese game ‘Mahjong’; roulette tables form the eyes and patterns have been taken from Eastern influences.
With a keen interest in fashion and textiles after his work with McQueen, in 2011 Tsai set up his own luxury fashion label, Jacky Tsai, which sees him place his art imagery onto clothing and accessories with the aim to break the barrier between art and fashion and create "artlevel" fashion products for collectors of both exclusive fashion and art. The label has since been extremely popular and is now represented in high-end London department store Harvey Nichols with collaborations with other high-profile brands in the pipeline.
Born in China in 1984, Tsai grew up in Shanghai and after completing his BA at the China Academy of Art, moved to London to study MA Illustration at Central St Martin’s, graduating in 2008. His debut London solo show in 2010 proved to be a success and introduced him into the London art scene. In the summer of the following year he showed two works with Eyestorm in a private event at the prestigious Mayfair Hotel where both pieces were sold. Since then Eyestorm has shown and sold his work in Hong Kong, New York, Singapore and London on numerous occasions, and he’s been involved in various projectsin China alongside this, promoting both his art and his fashion label.
A dynamic and prolific artist who constantly evolves his ideas, 30-year-old Tsai is dedicated to taking his work to the next level, never losing momentum and always out to impress. This includes the extension of hisfloral skull into a stunning 1.6m skull sculpture adorned with one thousand leather flowers. His eye for incorporating and combining re-imagined conceptsof beauty with an inventive approach to traditional materials and techniques continues to promise new and exciting art.
His most recent piece is an over-sized egg which he made for the Faberge Big Egg Hunt that takes place in New YorkCity 1st-18th April 2014. Other artists and designers involved include Jeff Koons, Tracey Emin, Ralph Lauren and Zaha Hadid and the eggs will be exhibited all together and then some will be auctioned off for charity at Sotheby’s at the end of the month.