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Jacky Tsai - the man behind the famous Alexander McQueen’s floral skull.

One of my top highlights for 2018 was attending the ‘Reincarnation’, a solo exhibition of new works by eminent Chinese contemporary artist, Jacky Tsai, on view at Unit London.

Tsai works across a range of mediums including installation, sculpture and fashion.

I attended the artist’s largest UK show to date, which included over twenty works and a monumental floral leather ‘Skullpture’, hanging in the centre of the gallery.

The iconic skull design, originally created by Tsai for Alexander McQueen, has been adapted by the artist into a sculptural form.

Floral Skull Leather Sculpture
The Floral Skull Leather Sculpture required 15 needlesmiths, 300 days and nights, and 1,000 leather pieces stitched together with one million stitches to create the countless blossoms that cover the surface of this giant skull.

Tsai’s practice unites cultural influences from the East and West, fusing a range of motifs on large-scale vibrant canvases. By innovatively blending Chinese craft tradition – lacquer carving, painted porcelain, silk embroidery, and guohua painting – with western pop iconography, the works stimulate new ideas relating to beauty, mortality and identity.

Tsai’s imaginative use of perspective and layering create culturally harmonious and aesthetically rich narratives.

New paintings, include, Shanghai Tang Café (2018) and The Pole Dancer (2018), which maintain Tsai’s unique and instantly recognisable kaleidoscopic graphic style.

The works highlight the influence of Western culture on Tsai’s practice, specifically by artists such as Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein. Vibrant superheroes and other western pop imagery are saturated by eastern landscapes, cultural symbols, craft and personal references to Tsai’s own family.

Jacky Tsai’s iconic floral skull, designed for the late British fashion designer Alexander McQueen in 2008, reflects the artist’s engagement with religious and spiritual themes.

Tsai’s recurring use of the skull motif challenges the prevailing notions of superstition and fear associated with death in Chinese culture. Blooming from the bones, the flowers, butterflies and bees in Tsai’s ‘Skullptures’, celebrates the beauty in decay.

The artist sees “the skull as a symbol of opportunity for new beginnings, rebirth from death”.

Tsai’s diverse works have garnered international acclaim and media coverage.

He is the first Chinese artist to be represented by the prestigious Fine Art Society and he has exhibited worldwide with exhibitions at Contemporary by Angela Li in Hong Kong and the Museum of Modern Art Moscow.


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