Cai Guo-Qiang is a Chinese contemporary artist featured in a number of past blogs. From a very early age, Cai was fascinated with fireworks and explosions and they are intrinsic to the majority of his art work.
Brought up in China, where fireworks are part of daily life and most certainly feature in almost all religious and secular holidays, it was no surprise that his preferred medium is black powder and its explosive power, bringing his art to the masses.
Cai uses all aspects of his traditional Chinese culture including their medicine, flowers and animals and brings this ethos to his work using some more traditional mediums to create art which shows his life and more importantly, stresses the path that we are taking as a race which is damaging the earth to such a degree that the so-called ‘natural disasters’ are in fact a result of our own actions.
In his early career, he studied the finer aspects of stage/set design, broadening his perspective. Over the years he has continued to push the boundaries of modern art.
In 1990, he started ‘Projects for Extra Terrestrials’ where he built a shanty, like the one in Tiananmen Square, loaded it with gunpowder and lit the fuse. The resultant explosion, using large fireworks, created amazing trails across the skies. It lasted around 9 seconds and was reportedly visible from space.
One of his other ‘claims to fame’ was being commissioned by the Chinese Government to create the opening and closing displays for the Beijing Olympics. I am sure that even now, 7 years on, there is still chatter in the firework fraternity about the ‘footprints’ debacle but you have to tip your hat to him, they were absolutely spectacular.
A recent creation formed part of his one man exhibition: The Ninth Wave, which represents mans responsibility for causing the current environmental and ecological issues like the 16,000 dead pigs found last year floating in the Huangpu River or the thick smog which constantly hangs over most of the major cities in China. Keeping his fondness for daytime fireworks; including all black, white and pastel coloured fireworks, his latest work ‘Chapter One of Elegy Firework’ (elegy – sad or mournful song or poem – like a lament) features a huge jetty full of fireworks – an impressive sight, whether you ‘get it’ or not!
Given his undisputed love affair with black powder, we are sure his imagination knows no bounds and look forward to seeing his future work.
Check out the video: