ZhaoShen Wang is one of the talented new designers we spotted during the summer show at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London. He just graduated from MA in Jewellery Design, and his graduate collection explores sexuality in a wide range of forms, materials and outcomes, designing through a soft erotic vocabulary of sensuality and restraint.
Before this, ZhaoShen has a BA degree in Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, China. He has collaborated with brands including HUAWEI, DAVIDOFF, BVLGARI and was nominated to LVMH and London Design Festival. His works are continuously exhibiting in Gallery Marzee (Nijmegen), Triple Parade Contemporary Jewellery Exhibition (Netherlands & Beijing), Fantastic Art China (New York), London Design Festival (London) and published on Phoenix Art, Life Weekly, Surface, etc.
In 2015, his work ‘Tea’ won the 1st prize of Chow Tai Fook and ‘Goat’ became the finalist of the TTF. Zhaoshen has worked as the Creative Director in Music Videos, and Chief Designer in designer brand WSWX’s SS2016 collection showed at Mercedes Benz Beijing Fashion Week.
ZhaoShen: The core idea of my project is around ‘sexuality’. It started with my observation and research into social events around identity in contemporary Europe, such as Pride, National Naked Ride, and other festivals, marches and gatherings. I was wondering why these events don’t happen in China? What is the difference between them and how the body has to do with the events?
I researched Asian and Western historical depictions of sex, taboos and openness, from documents, paintings, sculpture, tales, etc. I found out that in history we all have ‘crazy’ times and lots of documentation could be found, and actually, there are so many interesting tales in China back in the time. There’s not a definite ‘taboo’ or ‘openness’, and I begin to think why there’s such different understanding around ‘sexuality’ between China and Europe now, especially on the LGBT culture.
I tried to incorporate my thinking and re-interpret Asian history and transfer them into contemporary jewellery design. Through my collection, I wish to bring ‘sexuality’ into everyday conversations in our society.
The starting point of my design is gender neutral, but due to my personal preference, I added some masculine elements into the design.
In the history of jewellery, men loved jewellery the same as women did. When it comes to jewellery for men nowadays, people will think about watches and cuff-link, which I think is too limited. I like to collect rings, but I could hardly find the right proportions for men’s rings. In recent trends, men’s jewellery becomes more visible, and it shows that the gap in the design market is recognised.
As a designer, I always think about different designs, sizes, softness or hardness, contract and shapes in the collections I make. In ‘Infinite S’, I showed a complete design process from small pieces of brooches to large pieces on the body. I choose to use the rope because it is one of the most suitable material to make larger pieces. In fact, the rope should be the most common material used in men’s accessories; from the history of sailing and agriculture, and the reinterpretation by different designers, it symbolises a masculine power.
For me, the pearl is a similar design element to the rope, as it has a rich history and lots of different meanings. I also choose the pearl due to my design inspiration and its advantages in the market.
The biggest problem is the combination of the materials. Like you said, the rope and pearl is an unusual combination, so it is a risky experiment. Another difficulty is to pick the pearls with the special shapes and match them up. This can only be done by chance, as unlike the rounded pearls, the special pearls are all natural and have their own shapes. I need to balance the forms and fit with the metal part, which I’ve tried so many times to get it right.
The most fascinating thing is that the audience has reached a mutual understanding of the pearl. At first, they are shocked by the sizes of the pearls and asked me if they are natural or manmade, and how difficult it is to find them. When we discussed in depth about the discrete meaning regarding the pearl and sexuality, they understood suddenly, laughed, or talked about the history, etc. This also proved that I did bring up the topic of ‘sexuality’ into everyday conversations with my jewellery design, and people do need a platform to talk about it.
During my BA course, I have collaborated with artist Kim Buck on the project ‘Long Life Lock for the Sister’. The theme is almost black humour for me, as under the ‘One Child Policy’ in China, in our generation we don’t have any brothers or sisters. So the brief is to make a piece of jewellery for a nonexistent person. I used cosmetic foundation to imprint the shape of ‘long life lock’ on the powder puff, put it in a 9cm*9cm vacuum bag, and called it ‘Long Beauty Lock’. The project only takes a week.
The funny thing is after a year from the project, the one-child policy is cancelled. We have become the loneliest generation in the history. I decided to continue my ‘Long Beauty Lock’ project and gave my powder puff to a friend who is like my younger sister. I document journey when she opens the seal, use the powder to do her makeup every day, until the long like lock pattern disappeared. This takes about a week.
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