Through a range of materials and techniques, Tsai's work explores the relationship between Eastern and Western cultures and the ways in which they feed and enrich one another. A Western pop art aesthetic is expertly blended with eastern artistry and the emblems of Chinese mythology through at times absurd tableaus; modern-day western superheroes battle it out with characters from Chinese folk tales; Wonder Woman is wooed by the Monkey King, Empress Wu is saved by Tarzan. The narrative pieces in the show will draw their inspiration from the four great novels of Chinese literature. (Water Margin, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Journey to the West, Dream of the Red Chamber). From the Ming and Qing dynasties, in the 14th - 18th Century, these great heroic stories still form the basis of much Chinese popular culture, from opera to television and are considered to be the most significant stories of pre-modern Chinese literature.
At once comical and energetic, there is an undertone of serious political and social debate in Tsai’s works. Borrowing the tropes of 19th century colonial rule and Orientalism and of modern-day racial stereotyping the works reveal deeper questions about the effect of globalisation, capitalism, and the perception of difference in society.
Tsai began his career collaborating with the British fashion designer Alexander McQueen, creating his signature floral skull motif. Tsai’s training in print, fashion and multimedia has informed his work and technique. He works with a range of traditional Chinese crafts and techniques dating back 2000 years including wood-engraving, cloisonné, ceramic and Suxiu embroidery. These ancient artisan crafts are practiced by an ever-diminishing number of masters in central China, and Tsai works alongside these ageing experts in the construction of his pieces. Despite the masters’ initial reticence about this ‘non-traditional’ imagery, Tsai’s determination is to revitalise these crafts for a new generation and reignite an interest that is waning in his homeland.
Since his work with Alexander McQueen, Tsai has continued to work with fashion, debuting his own fashion label where he has collaborated with luxury retail brands such as Harvey Nichols and Lane Crawford. In 2014, Tsai collaborated with the luxury Chinese brand Shanghai Tang on a critically acclaimed collection, which launched globally in May 2014.
Raphael Le Masne, Executive Chairman of Shanghai Tang commented on the partnership with Tsai: “We are delighted to collaborate with Jacky, as his dynamic style adds a genuine twist to Shanghai Tang’s colourful interpretation of Modern China. We have long been supportive of both emerging and acclaimed Chinese artists, and Jacky’s creations feed the rising global appetite for a lifestyle enriched by Chinese culture.” For the first time Tsai will present the new collection of Jacky Tsai dresses alongside his wall-based artworks as a celebration of his commitment to art and fashion, and an exploration of the many crossovers that personify his practice. The pieces will be presented in partnership with Shanghai Tang, continuing a long-term working relationship that has resulted in joint exhibitions and shows in Hong Kong and Shanghai.
Since graduating with a Masters degree from Central St Martins in London, Tsai’s work has been exhibited worldwide, with key exhibitions in London, New York City, Singapore and Hong Kong. Tsai is the first Chinese artist to be represented by The Fine Art Society, the oldest commercial gallery in the UK. Born in Shanghai, Tsai now lives and works in London.