For a contemporary artist any material is good enough to work with, be it noble and soft or poor and aggressive. Cai Guo-Qiang made a radical choice: he chose gunpowder. With black dust and the inhereted wisdom of hundreds of years of Chinese pyrotechnic tradition he composes works of art that are made visible in a detonation of light, smoke and colour. Explosive art.
Cai Guo-Qiang was born in Quanzhou, China in 1957. After studying in Shanghai, he moved to Japan and, later, New York, where he has been living and working since 1995. Currently, he is known in the art world for his large scale intallations and, most of all, for his literally bombastic explosion projects, which he has shown around the world, in places like MoMA, in New York, the Tate Modern, in London and the Centre Pompidou in Paris.
Every explosive installation starts in the same way: before a more or less numerous audience, the artist carefully spreads the gunpowder through the floor, on top of a canvas or of a fabric, creating drawings that are more or less figurative. After this stage is over, all of the explosive material is covered with cards over which weights, usually rocks, are placed. This protection is used to control the explosion and circumscribe it to the limits of the desired shapes. The ignition ensues. The entire space is flooded by a cloud of smoke, cut out by crackling small flames. Finally, Cai Guo-Qiang and his assistants take the protection off to reveal the final result, a canvas that will be hung in a wall, for an exhibition.