(Chinese, B. 1957)
Landscape of Sun: Black Point
signed 'CAI' in Pinyin (middle right); signed in Chinese; signed 'CAI GUO QIANG' in Pinyin; titled in Chinese and Japanese; titled 'sun-spot' in English (on the reverse)
oil, gunpowder and paper on canvas
60.7 x 72.5 cm. (23 7/8 x 28 1/2 in.)
Painted in 1988
Private Collection, Asia
Sale room notice
Please note that the work is painted in 1988.

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Eric Chang
Eric Chang

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Lot Essay

Chinese artist Cai Guo Qiang's earliest experiments with the use of gunpowder are in many ways the purest expression of the thought and philosophy behind his art-making. Having left China in the mid-1980s, Cai in some sense first encountered traditional Chinese philosophy and aesthetics in Japan. In his studies, Cai was intrigued by the apparent parallels between the theories of modern physics and ancient Daoist notions of qi - theories surrounding underlying notions of creation, matter and being.

In the rare early work, Landscape of Sun: Black Point (Lot 477), the artist mixes gunpowder with oil pigment. The work features a dense mass of gunpowder that stands in violent contrast to the field of delicate pink and white strokes, seeming to penetrate the canvas like a wayward asteroid. These pure, almost deliberately primitive images pulsate with an energy and an agency that is otherworldly, a theme and effect that would become increasingly significant in his works to come. Despite the rather intimate scale of the painting, Cai manages to create a surface that evokes both the elemental experimentations of modern master Zao Wou-ki and the mystical wonderment of the images from the early exploration the moon's surface brought. The gunpowder writhes like traditional ink strokes across the surface, while the texture suggests a geographical formation from time immemorial.

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