Cai Guo-Qiang: Gunpowder Drawings
Wan Hu was a Chinese official and proto-astronaut who, in the early sixteenth century, got onto a chair with forty-seven lit rockets attached to it. Neither he nor the chair was ever seen again.
This story is but one of the ‘gunpowder drawing’ narratives that form part of Cai Guo-Qiang’s most recent solo exhibition, Sky Ladder, and bring together once more his enduring fascination with extraterrestrials, explosions, time and chaos. Meticulous planning and hours of labour produce an evanescent moment of tension and release, leaving a scorched ghost of the event behind. As Cai explains:
“Using gunpowder as a medium brings me closer to nature, and even the universe. Of course at the moment of ignition, the explosion is instantaneous, but gunpowder has its origins in minerals that took hundreds, thousands or millions of years to form…They relate to the energy in nature, my ancestors, and an entire galaxy with tens of thousands of stories. At this moment of destruction, you create something miraculously beautiful.”
You can watch the whole process, from creation to ignition, here.
- Alex Tesar