Born in 1957, Cai Guo Qiang is considered to be one of the top ten contemporary artists in today’s society. Originating in China, his work is worldwide, reflecting on both the history and current events that have concerned Cai. As a teenager, after witnessing the effects of the Cultural Revolution, he participated in demonstrations and parades himself. He was raised in a setting where explosions’ occurred weather as a result of a cannon blasting or celebratory fireworks. The 56 year old has been known since the early 1990’s, creating large-scale works, which primarily involved the use ‘gunpowder’ and ‘fireworks’, influenced from his childhood, as well as many other interesting installations placed in museums around the world.
Within the last 25 years Cai Guo Qiang has cooperated with the most prestigious art institutions in the world, which includes the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Solomon R Guggenheim museum in New York. In his newest solo exhibitions, Cai Guo Qiang’s ‘falling back to Earth’ features four installations, which includes two artworks inspired by the countryside of Southeast Queensland, where the artist visited in 2011. Falling back to Earth is the single largest artist show produced ever produced for QAGOMA, which introduces 3 works from the artist.
The most famous artwork in this exhibition features- Heritage 2013- including replicas of 99 artificial animals from around the world all gathered to drink from a lake surrounded by white sand. The second installation – Eucalyptus- relates to the ancient trees of Lamington National Park in the Gold Coast hinterland. The third remarkable installation, Head On 2006, has been on display for the first time in Australia, featuring 99 wolves leaping through the air into a glass wall.
His work is known to be quite dangerous as proven in 1996 when an accidental explosion at a local factory destroyed Cai’s work, which ultimately forced the cancellation of his project the previous night. Another incident occurred 3 years later for APT3. 99 small alcohol-filled boats unintentionally sunk to the bottom of the Brisbane River.
A lot of his artworks involve a great deal of tension specifically his 2006 creation, Head on, which included 99 wolfs heading
onto a glass wall, which is used as an allegory for the human condition. This also represents leaping into the unknown as well as the will to heroically press on even after failure. The replicas were constructed out of metal wires, with painted sheepskins and stuffed with hay. The wolves are closely packed together to create the illusion that there is one long stream of wolves. The stream is balanced above the viewer’s heads as they fly through the air, before moving and forcefully crashing into a wall at the other end of the room. There are a few wolves, which casually join the pack from the back to head in the same direction. This represents an example of complexity as the wolves that have smashed into the wall have disrupted the flow of the rest of the pack, much like a waterfall. This is then simplified when the wolves rejoin at the back, keeping a connective course.
The wolves extending through the air are juxtaposed against the wolves that have hit the wall, as their distorted bodies pile on top of each other in unnatural positions. Inspired by the Berlin wall the glass can be presented as an invisible emotional barrier. The number 99 represents incompletion in Chinese, as the wolves are not learning from their mistake, but repeating it as they join to the back of the pack.
The artwork “Head on” had the most meaning out of the three installations in the exhibition. It also displayed more character within the sculptures (Wolves) when compared to “Heritage”, which can be supported by the varying facial expressions on their faces.
Throughout the exhibition there are various hands on and multi media activities created by Cai, which both children and adults alike can be involved...
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