Taking a deep look into the mentality of a great artist



Chinese Artist Cai Guo-Qiang

Cai Guo-Qiang’s artworks made by inflaming gunpowder on sheets of special made papers, which is a new medium of contemporary artistic expression. Cai wants to look at how he can create something with destruction. His drawings give both the viewers and the artist the primordial state of chaos by making the explosion with natural energy forces. Further, gunpowder was invented in China, where Cai Guoqiang was born. For Cai, gunpowder is a cultural symbol, which similar to traditional ink paintings in ancient China.

Summer, 2014
Gunpowder drawing on porcelain as part of installation “Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter” at Power Station of Art, Shanghai.
Self-Portrait: A Subjugated Soul, 1985-1989
Gunpowder and oil on canvas
Cai Guo-Qiang sprinkling gunpowder onto canvas to create Chaos in Nature, Los Angeles, 2012. Photo by Joshua White/, courtesy The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles

Sheets of special paper are placed on the floor with gunpowder fuses and loose explosive powders arranged on the top. Cardboard or paper stencils are used occasionally to create the outline of the works. He also used wooden pieces to spread the patterns created by smoke and the impact of an explosion. He lights up the fused at one end of the drawing after the setup is done. A gunpowder drawing is almost completed when the flame goes across the surface with powerful bangs. Next, the assistants need to do a quick clean up of the embers with rags. Lastly, the artwork is lifted up and hung on the wall.

My Inspiration

Exploring cultures, histories and natural mediums might be inspiring for creating artworks. Perhaps, I could get some interesting ideas from my cultural background as well as past experiences for mark making.