Thursday, October 14, 2010

cai guo-qiang's odyssey

photo by Douglas Newman of Cai 
Last week I had the incredible opportunity to volunteer to work with the Chinese-born artist Cai Guo-Qiang on a massive gunpowder drawing he was commissioned to do for the Arts of China Gallery at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. As a volunteer, I cut stencil out of cardboard that he drew so he could spread gunpowder over the stencil and onto specially prepared hemp paper panels. I worked Monday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings. The piece is made of 42 panels approximately 8 feet high by 5 feet wide (my estimation).

After the cardboard was cut out and the gunpowder was applied by Cai, fuses and dried plants were added then lit on fire inside the warehouse where the art was created. An explosion and smoke followed - all was caught on live streaming video that I watched from the comfort of my apartment. Here is a link to the ignition ceremony:

The resulting gunpowder drawing will be on permanent display at the gallery as a backdrop to its rotating antiquities collection. The finished piece will be revealed this week at the opening of the new gallery. It was an unforgettable opportunity to see another artist at work and to participate in the creation of such a massive piece of art.

I am currently working with ink and brush on a new project as I was inspired by the beauty of the brushstrokes Cai made and the references to Chinese calligraphy. I hope to paint on a small scale with ink and brush then blow the images up on a projector and paint them much larger. We'll have to see how it comes out!

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