Culture clash exchange

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When Glass found out that one of the most well-regarded international artists, Jacky Tsai, was soon to debut his first solo exhibition at London’s Scream Gallery, we knew we had to have an exclusive behind-the-scenes chat with the man himself before his exciting new work was unveiled. Tsai, who lends much of his demiurgic development to his time at Alexander McQueen’s studio – where his pre-eminent floral skull motif came into existence, is one of the last masters of the craft of carved laquerware technique. Making paramount use of this in his first comprehensive collection, Eastern Orbit, Glass caught up with Jacky so he could give us the lowdown on the many aspects surrounding his show at a gallery inclined towards work exploring colour, skill and visual impact.

So, your first solo exhibition in London, how do you feel about that?
Very excited. I’m glad to show my favourite 16 artworks from the last two years. I hope people will remember this exhibition at Scream for a long time.

It’s been said that you are something of a hybrid whose practice incorporates a broad range of imagery, techniques and media. Do you favour a specific method, or are you constantly spoilt for choice?
All the mediums I work with are derived from Chinese traditional techniques – such as lacquer carving, hand-painted porcelain and silk embroidery. These skills are dying out so I want to preserve them and make people aware of our great heritage.

When studying your work, a “fusion of East and West” ideology emerges very often, could you tell us what this means to you personally?
I’m originally from Shanghai but have lived in London for a long time so I select different components and imagery from both cultures and try to make them work in harmony.

The cultural exchange you explore in the new collection, Eastern Orbit, is rather fascinating, could you elaborate on your comment about, shall we say, the ever present effects of globalisation.
Indeed, we are living in the exciting new era of globalisation, the culture differences are gradually blurring and my artwork is to differentiate the eastern and western cultures in an exaggerated way, so people can remember their culture identities.

Through your work you have aimed to revolutionise contemporary Chinese art and combine Chinese craft and skill with Western pop imagery. In your opinion, have you achieved this, and if so, did you set yourself up with a hard task?
The hardest task for my new show is to revolutionise contemporary Chinese art which has not been developed in last 25 years. Artists from the 1960s who experienced the cultural revolution have dominated the Chinese art market in many years. The new generation needs to develop the motifs and aesthetics in their art, rather than follow the old trends. I’m glad I achieved my goal, I’m proud that all my new artworks are unique and innovative.

You have no qualms about taking on time consuming projects that demand high levels of production and labour-intensive processes. Do you think this emphasis on quality is your calling in our all too fast paced times?
Absolutely. I believe all beautiful art takes time. When people visit my solo show at Scream, I hope they feel like they are enjoying great food in a Michelin Star restaurant rather than walking into a takeaway junk food shop.

If so, you must really take pleasure in nurturing an intricate masterpiece bit by bit?
It has taken a long time to finish all the works. Each piece takes many months to produce. I have to be very patient during the process and expect the best results. I feel like I achieved my goal in the end.

Your work tends to apply to a neo-pop art aesthetic, what do you think is Pop Art’s place in 2014?
I appreciate all the masterpieces that Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol did, but too many artists try to imitate the style in the last 40 years or so. Now I feel it’s the time to make my statement of what I feel is a new Pop Art language in 2014 and develop this in my own way – a hybrid style of western Pop Art and Chinese traditional craft.

Finally, going back to your exploration of varying yet increasingly intertwined cultures, taking into consideration this depiction of a supposed cultural clash, would you call yourself a keen traveller – and that said, do you make an effort to imbibe everything that you see and learn in order to inspire future artistic advances.
Very true, I’m thankful for my mixed cultural background and it does help me make my art differently. I hope that what I produce will not only inspire the younger generation but also continue to influence and evolve my own practice for the future.

by Liam Feltham

Images courtesy of Scream London

Eastern Orbit is at Scream until June 16.