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JACKY TSAI | STUDIO VISIT
January 5th 2018
Last year was busy year for Chinese artist Jacky Tsai and maybe not surprisingly. With the release of three print editions, the opening of two solo shows in Los Angeles and Hong Kong - and a couple of big projects in between, the stage was set for a successful 2017. We went to see Jacky Tsai in his studio on the first day of the new year.
by Henrik Riis
NEWS FROM EYESTORM
Henrik Riis [HR]: Happy New Year! In a few words how would you summarise the year 2017 for Jacky Tsai?

Jacky Tsai [JT]: Happy New Year! I would say that 2017 was quite a low profile, hardworking and humble year for me. It was really a year that focused on the development and improvement of the methods of my artwork and also a time to prepare for 2018, which is going to be a big year for me.
Jacky Tsai

Sanctuary Skull Lenticular , 2017

100(w) x 122(h) cm
39.37(w) x 48.23(h) inches
Lenticular

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HR; At the beginning of last year we saw a new lenticular piece from you, titled Sanctuary Skull Lenticular. We know that your collectors love your famous skull artwork from your time with Alexander McQueen. After your success with Soul Harvest and Vermillion Garden from 2012/13, many of your fans asked for more skulls and we all thought that Stained Glass Skull would mark a temporary end to this “era”; an era from where you went on to work on the energetic superhero series. And then in January 2017 you surprised us with Sanctuary Skull Lenticular. What were your thoughts behind wanting to do this particular skull piece?

JT: The year before last was not an easy year for many people due to a lot of instability in the world, with an escalating war in Syria, refugees and constant threat of terrorism. With all of the misfortunes happening, my idea for the artwork was to build a sanctuary for all. It combines the Eastern and Western architectural elements in order for everyone to find peace here - as well as creating a dramatic contrast to the composition of the other three suites of playing cards (diamond, hearts and spades) which were very decorative and bright in colours. Sanctuary Skull Lenticular focuses mainly on a black-and-white etching style to emphasise its serious and genuine topic.

HR; From enthusiastic art lovers to successful and demanding collectors, we all have a tendency to forget that success comes from walking down new paths and trying out new ideas, with the risk of failure. Over the years you have working with lacquer, porcelain, leather and of course screenprinting - and this year you turned increasingly to canvas. From my point of view, your success seems to be built on your ability to go with your instinct and see where it takes you. Where do you find this confidence?

JT: I tend to keep on exploring new techniques and methods to bring in fresh elements and improving the artworks continuously - and being confident with my instinct is not all of it. I’ve got many ideas and some ideas require one particular method to bring it to life. When my intuition does not align with my ideas, it always takes time and patience to find the right one. So basically, the more ­methods I discover, the more confidence I have in the development of new artwork.

HR; In the spring we released The Revival and Golden Revival, two works in the shape of a traditional Chinese fan and printed on silky smooth and fine matt paper. Personally I love the print, with all the hidden imagery and references to Buddha. For me to understand your work it often requires some “quiet time” to reveal itself and I find The Revival is a piece which on the surface is so calm that one may forget to look closer. Was this deliberately your intention - or am I overanalyzing?

JT: My opinion for Pop Art is that it can be very noisy sometimes with its dynamic colours and bold elements; it is quite the opposite of traditional Chinese art. This is why I find it very interesting to combine the two. So yes, the audience will need some ‘quiet time’ or space while viewing the artworks for a better understanding.

Jacky Tsai

The Revival , 2017

120(w) x 64(h) cm
47.24(w) x 25.20(h) inches
18 colour screenprint on Somerset 410 gsm paper

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Edition of 60
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HR; I recently read an interesting article how collectors from an Asian cultural background look at a piece of art by first interpreting the background and then use this to reference it to the main composition, often in front. This is very different from collectors with a western cultural background, who often start with the main front part of the image and then move to the background. I find this quite fascinating. Is this something you are aware of when you work on a new piece?

JT: Yes, different cultures have its own understanding of art and it is important to take this into consideration as I wish to inspire both Asian and Western audiences and for them to understand my work. Although I am aware of this, the theme of the artwork decides the composition during the creative process. When I made my first screenprints there were no backgrounds, so I have a lot to thank the early collectors for who believed in me as a young artist at a time where my work was less complex.

HR; And as your work is exactly about combining Eastern and Western cultures, do you intentionally play with the way of people interpret your work; I mean by making the background more Asian and the front more Western and this way speak to different cultural preferences at the same time?

JT: The theme of the artwork always comes first. Sometimes it can be the opposite; in some of my artworks Western elements takes control of the background while an Asian inspiration is being the main front part. It’s the idea that decides.

HR; Earlier we spoke about your surprise lenticular skull released in January. I remember at your solo show in New York in 2016 you mentioned that you were thinking of “moving away” from superheroes - and yet in October last year we saw the new fantastic and almost extravagant series Fly Me to the Moon, combining backgrounds of gold, rose gold and palladium. There seem to be an element of surprise in your recent print editions. Can you explain your creative process of how you get inspired?

JT; Mostly, my inspiration comes from classical Chinese artworks, which gold and palladium take important roles in; and the idea and theme of the artworks take place from daily life. Lastly, I add the western elements in the artwork for a twist. Each process is equivalently crucial and can give the artwork a whole different perspective.
Jacky Tsai

Fly Me to the Moon (Gold) , 2017

94(w) x 95(h) cm
37.01(w) x 37.40(h) inches
18 colour screenprint with 24-carat gold leaf
Image size 80 x 80cm

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HR; So how do you know when to revisit previous creative routes? I mean, does is come suddenly?

JT; Any artwork I made is always an on-going process, therefore there is no ‘ending’ period for one series because I believe that each one of them effects and inspires the next idea and outcome. So it’s a very fluid process and the superhero and skull elements will be found in the future series of artworks as well. Also when I discover new techniques, I sometime think “wow, this artwork from a couple of years ago would be great in this medium” and then I allow myself to improve the piece in a new format.

HR; We know you have a big group of collectors in Hong Kong following your every move, so I guess your solo show in Asia went really well in November. But you also had a solo show in Los Angeles. What pieces did you show - and did you have a particular focus on your “new found” medium, canvas?

JT: The Los Angeles show takes a retrospective and also a review of all Jacky Tsai Artwork from past to now. There was a focus on work on canvas as it is a great medium for both traditional and contemporary artwork. Some techniques such as lacquer carving limit the artwork to sometimes appear too traditional, while canvas finds the right balance between the two. The new and very big Shanghai Tang Café artwork, measuring 450cm / 177inch, is a great example of this.

HR; At the beginning of 2018 it has been seven years since we started collaborating. The years have passed by so quickly fast and whenever we meet you always have new ideas. What can we expect from your studio this year?

JT: This year my studio has some big projects coming up and we are certain the pieces will be exceptional. Artwork changes when an artist matures and I believe that 2018 will be no different than the previous years, so we are looking forward to a great year.


You can find artwork by Jacky Tsai on his artist page here- or read more about his career as an artist in our article Jacky Tsai | Investing in Art.
 
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