Born in China’s Fujian Province, Cai studied stage design at the Shanghai Theatre Academy, after which he spent nearly nine years in Japan. The artist’s use of gunpowder and its explosion on various media brought him international fame. Now based in New York, he initiates and takes part in projects around the world, cooperating with local communities and inviting larges numbers of participants.
Committed in the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale through his curation at DMoCA since 2000, Cai organizes a solo exhibit Penglai / Hōrai at Kinare this summer. Hōrai Mountain, imaginary utopia inhabited by hermits in Ancient Chinese myth, was often the object of artistic representation or of literature such as Treasure Island with the connotation of “adventure.”
In recent years, however, islands themselves are the dilemma for people, sometimes giving rise to conflicts among the nations. It is on such basis that Cai makes up the installation at Kinare.
For this exhibition at Art Front Gallery, Cai thematically considers “islands” with a focus on the mythical Penglai / Hōrai Mountain. The works exhibited will include a number of gunpowder drawings ignited at Kinare as well an online game platform, a virtual world that renders the dream of the future as a peaceful art island.
In his work, Cai incorporates a wide array of themes that reference the history and culture of East Asia. Drawing on Feng Shui, Chinese herbal medicine, the Chinese concept of qi, dragons, gunpowder and fireworks among other themes, Cai skillfully outlines characteristic aspects of modern society. For instance, notwithstanding tensions in the Pacific region, he remains optimistic for new possibilities of mutual understanding. One of these, Cai finds in the World Wide Web and its inherent ability to transcend borders. Cai’s artistic practice brings together a wide range of people—young and old, of rural or urban settings, from within or without the artistic community.
In addition to newly commissioned gunpowder drawings, included in this exhibition is Art Island, an online art and educational game platform that Cai has initiated with the long-term goal of fostering creativity, mutual understanding and peace in the East Asian region. Players will be able to create, collaborate and exchange ideas within the game’s virtual workshops. The Fireworks Workshop and Robot Workshop in particular are based on Cai’s signature artistic approach and are inspired by his 2010-2013 travelling exhibition Peasant da Vincis. As Art Island continues to develop, prominent artists, designers and architects from East Asia will
be invited to create additional workshops.
Cai believes that indoor artworks enter in dialogue with the inner self while outdoor installations and public artworks represent an exchange with the larger universe. In his work, Cai seeks to achieve a unified balance between these inner and outer universes. Building upon these concepts over the years, in July, Cai begins a new journey filled with new challenges. We hope that the audience will keep in mind the traces of explosion left on paper as they consider the glimpse of hopes and dreams beyond the representation of these islands, perhaps an "island" that shows the dream of the future.
Partial proceeds from this exhibition will be donated to the UNESCO Artist for Peace initiative, with support from both Art Front
Gallery and Cai Guo-Qiang.