Lauren Tsai’s Unreal

While becoming a worldwide success at a multi-hyphenate barrage of careers is rare, it seems downright impossible to accomplish this before turning twenty-two years old. Yet, that’s what Lauren Tsai has done. Arguably achieving her celebrity status on the reality show Terrace House: Aloha State, Tsai’s on-camera appearances were notably awkward, a trait that counterintuitively endeared her to a legion of fellow introverts. Following Tsai’s early 2017 departure from the house, there was an outpouring of career opportunities: walking the runway for Dolce&Gabbana, being featured in numerous fashion magazine editorials, appearing in ad campaigns for UNIQLO and Adidas, and even her acting debut as a season three regular on Legion. But all these successes didn’t satisfy nearly as much as what’s possibly the most important hyphenate to Tsai: being an artist. And she’s become a rising star of the art world, her most recent accomplishment being the issuing of her first wholly original sculptural form, Unreal.

The Artwork of Lauren Tsai

Tsai’s illustation work was a reoccurring element during her Terrace House: Aloha State tenure, culminating with her 18 solo exhibition at Honolulu’s Ars Cafe shortly before she exited the series. And, after leaving, Tsai’s art career blossomed: in March of 2017, her art was displayed during an evening of Julien Levy films at Tokyo’s Sezon Art Gallery and she did a multi-story window display for Osaka’s LUCUA retail complex, then — just before December of 2017 — she covered Toyko’s Starbucks B-Side location in Christmas-themed drawings. With her artistic output seemingly stagnating under her multi-hyphenate directions, she would course-correct and refocus by mid-2018. Over the next year-and-a-half, her illustrations adorned: a capsule collection from Marc Jacobs, the debut issue covers of two relaunched Marvel Comics titles, and a piece in Medicom‘s [email protected] Series 38 assemblage. But, perhaps most impressive of all, she’d end 2019 with her own, wholly original art toy being produced.

Lauren Tsai’s Unreal

Upon first seeing Tsai’s Unreal polystone sculpture, two common reactions seem to be: “It reminds me of Princess Mononoke” and “It’s like something from Spirited Away.” Fair observations, as many elements do harken to those films, from the color palette on the supernatural creature to the sense of an environmental theme looming within the form. But Tsai’s creation is only reminiscent of those Studio Ghibli animations, not derivative of them, which makes perfect sense given the artist’s background. Though accepted into art colleges, Tsai ended her formal art education after high school, thus her raw talent wasn’t refined by academia but rather through personal taste and experience. With self-proclaimed influences including films from the American stop-motion animation studio Laika and Studio Ghibli co-founder Hayao Miyazaki‘s directorial works, this explains the latter’s aesthetic impression upon Tsai’s limited edition Unreal sculpture as produced by Medicom and 3DRetro.

More than a reflection of her lifelong love of animated films, the dragon at the heart of Tsai’s Unreal is a creature she’s been evolving since childhood. Developed over years of renditions, as if each iteration helped her understand the meaning of the character better, Unreal‘s dreamlike pairing seemingly bridges two worlds, the utterly surreal dragon being grasped onto by a relatably innocent-looking girl. With the sculpture based on a digital drawing created by Tsai in mid-2018, this illustration was purportedly a reworking of her To Better Places acrylic & watercolor. Bringing Tsai’s career full circle, as well as potentially deepening her personal resonance with the work, the To Better Places painting was part of her first solo exhibition, which opened during her stay at Terrace House. And unable to deny the positive effect that reality show had on her career, perhaps this choice is Tsai’s loving nod to the new worlds that the series opened up for her.

For more information on Lauren Tsai:
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