In a space as big as a football field, Chinese-born artist Cai Guoqiang's recent works constitute an explosive and touching sight witnessed by cars pierced with dazzling tubes of all colors, life-size tigers stabbed by hundreds of arrows, and drawings formed by gunpowder explosives.
Entitled "Cai Guoqiang: Long Scroll," the exhibition is being held at the Shawinigan Space of the National Gallery of Canada (NGC) from June to October 2006. The peace of Shawinigan, a small town surrounded by dense forests in Quebec Province, is sure to be broken by Cai's gunpowder and car explosions.
"Because it is devoted to just one internationally known artist, this exhibition represents an exciting innovation for the National Gallery's summer exhibition program at Shawinigan Space," Pierre Theberge, director of the (NGC) and the exhibition's curator, told reporters on Friday.
Like a traditional Chinese scroll painting, the installations that make up "Long Scroll" are intended to be "read" from right to left, a feature highlighted through a painting in the "long scroll" format by the artist's father who opens the exhibition. "In Shawinigan Space's huge rooms, Cai Guoqiang has created a contemporary long scroll, to be unfolded by the visitor's movements through time and space but also in mind and body," said Theberge.
"Cai Guoqiang's works juxtapose the traditional with the contemporary and the resulting installations are spectacular and deeply imbued with meaning," commented Mr. Theberge. The centerpiece of the exhibition is Inopportune: Stage One(2004), an extraordinary installation that features nine identical white cars, suspended in mid-air and pierced with dazzling multicolored light tubes. The cars, tumbling between earth and sky, create an impression of an explosion unfolding in nine frames.
"The idea came into my mind after the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001. The subject matter this work invokes is obviously a car-bomb, the ultimate sign of threat and terror in today's world," Cai told Xinhua News Agency at a media preview of the exhibition earlier on Thursday.
Following Inopportune: Stage One is Flying Carpet, a piece Cai created in Germany in 2005. The image of a Persian carpet aloft above the viewer, ambiguously pierced by 200 arrows, is a symbol of the collision between different civilizations, Cai noted.
The second major installation Inopportune: Stage Two displays nine life-size tigers leap through the air, each stabbed by hundreds of arrows. The exhibit, with its sublime beauty and intense horror, evokes in the imagination heroism and bravery, which in turn reminds people of the ever-increasing conflicts between humans and nature, Cai told Xinhua.
Born in 1957 in Quanzhou, a city in China's southeastern Fujian Province, Cai studied stage design at the Shanghai Drama Institute from 1981 to 1985. In 1986 he moved to Japan, where he began producing and showing art, immediately receiving national and international recognition. He has been based in New York City since 1995. Regarded as one of the most high-profile Chinese artists working on the global art scene, he has exhibited in the Tate Modern in London, the Museum of Modern Art in New York and most recently in the Center Pompidou in Paris.
The reason for his international popularity is that, instead of restricting himself within the scope of traditional Chinese art, he is able to view the world more globally, and show his concern for whatever is most interesting to world audiences, Cai told Xinhua.
"Once you combine the Chinese traditional art with a modern perception, you are sure to have resonance with a wide range of audience," he said.
At the end of Cai's scroll, the sculptural installation Reflection -- A Gift from Iwaki features a Japanese fishing boat, excavated from the bottom of the ocean and covered with thousands of shards of porcelain statuettes of the Buddhist goddess Bodhisattva Guanyin. The statuettes were produced in Dehua, a major ceramic production center in the artist's hometown.
(Xinhua News Agency June 13, 2006)