The pioneering mind behind Alexander McQueen’s iconic floral skull, Jacky Tsai, will be launching a major new fashion collection alongside his original wall-hung artworks this September.
Jacky Tsai’s dresses play tribute to the creative and cultural crossover between art and fashion that continues to inform not only his own practice, but that of several significant names within the industry. From Raff Simons at Dior, to Giles Deacon and Jeremy Deller’s cloaked coat of arms, the nexus between these two worlds is constantly theorised in numerous ways. The exhibition it set to explore the ever-growing relationship between Eastern and Western cultures, and the ways in which they continue to coalesce in contemporary society today. The accessibility of his ‘western pop aesthetic’ combined with the intricacy of an ‘eastern artistry’ marks a certain diversity to Tsai’s oeuvre, presenting a novelty in narrative for Chinese culture.
Jacky tells us about his ever-present inspiration for the growing cultures around him and, very humbly, an insight to the experience behind a rapid peak in his artistic career through McQueen.
What interests you about the mixture of Eastern and Western cultures?
The mixture of eastern and western culture which captures my interest is loosely based on my personal experience. Having spent the early years of my life in China my experience as a Chinese artist living in London continue to inspire me and the blend of cultural influences which I experience in my day-to-day life.
Can you recall the moment when you first realised the big difference between Eastern and Western cultures? Has this moment ever fed into you work since?
I don’t think there is a particular moment that has fed into my work, however the waves of culture shock that I felt from the day I arrived in London and the differences in culture that I experience in my daily life continues to be a part of my creative process.
Your work combines “western pop art aesthetics” with “eastern artistry”. What artists inspired this mix or did you develop it through your own experimentation?
Roy Lichtenstein was a great inspiration to me in his adaptation of the pop art aesthetic but I think that it is rare to see pop artists adapting a style composed of both cultures extremes. With help from my earlier training in China, I developed my original style from experimentation.
What inspired you to play with the combination of characters from Chinese folk tales with modern-day western superheros?
To me modern-day Western superheroes and the characters from Chinese folk tale are representations of the best facets from both cultures. The symbolic value that these character holds inspire me to play with them, to identify common elements, and to contrast these through juxtaposition.
Tell me a little about one of your favourite heroic stories from the Ming and Qing dynasties and how it has featured in your upcoming exhibition.
My favourite heroic story is The Romance of the Three Kingdoms and especially a famous scene which takes place in the Peach Garden. The scene captures Liu Bei, Guan Yu, and Zhang Fei the three key figures from the Han power taking an oath to become sworn brothers. The Romance at the Hamptons piece in my upcoming exhibition at The Fine Art Society, is a parody of this part of the story and the Brotherhood Forged in the Peach Garden. Often eluded to as a symbol of fraternal love, the scenery depicts my early understanding of brotherhood.
The Alexander McQueen floral skull motif which you created has become a signature look for the brand. What is it like creating such an iconic design which enables a luxury brand to be instantly recognisable worldwide?
It is not something I’d expected. I created the floral skull motif during my internship with Alexander McQueen I knew there would be those who like it but still I was surprised by how recognisable and iconic it became.
Why is it still important for you to use the craft and techniques of Chinese tradition from 2000 years ago?
Chinese traditional artistry has always been an important aspect of Chinese heritage, yet in recent years not only has it lost its long-lived popularity but also the techniques are fighting for their survival. I was tempted to modernize these techniques in order to help this artistry to gain back its popularity especially with younger audiences.
In this exhibition you’re showing your own artwork alongside your Jacky Tsai dresses. How important is it for people to recognise that art and fashion are forever feeding and inspiring each another?
I believe art and fashion will be forever intertwined. It is vital to remember that beyond fashion’s main purpose in constructing identity it is the most accessible form of art available.
Eastern and Western cultures will always have their differences. Will this culture clash continue to inspire your upcoming works or have you got new fresh ideas in mind for your future pieces?
Culture will always be the main focus of my work whether it is about culture clash between east and west or finding balance or creating harmony between the two. I believe there is still great depth within this mixture for me to experiment with. As for my future pieces, I have a clear vision waiting for me to materialise, but that’s a secret for another time.
The Fine Art Society will present Jacky’s collection from September 17th until October 2nd 2015.