Artist Cai Guo-Qiang transforms Shawinigan Space
Shawinigan, Québec - June 8, 2006
Imagine an exhibition in a space the length of a football field that includes cars tumbling between earth and sky, leaping tigers, videos, photos and drawings. That's the outline for the show you are invited to this summer when the National Gallery of Canada (NGC) presents Cai Guo-Qiang: Long Scroll at Shawinigan Space (in Shawinigan, Quebec), from 10 June to 1 October 2006. Cai Guo-Qiang [pronounced tsigh gwo chang] is a Chinese-born artist living and working in New York, known for his ambitious explosion works, gunpowder drawings and monumental theatrical installations.
"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," says Pierre Théberge, Director of the NGC and the exhibition's curator.
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 that opens the exhibition. "In Shawinigan Space's huge rooms, Cai Guo-Qiang has created a contemporary long scroll, to be unfolded by the visitor's movements through time and space but also in mind and body," comments Mr. Théberge.
The centrepiece of the exhibition is Inopportune: Stage One (2004), an extraordinary installation that features nine identical white cars, suspended in mid-air and transpierced with dazzling multi-coloured light tubes. The cars create the impression of an explosion unfolding in nine frames. The last car in the sequence lands safely, intact, implying a closed and infinitely repeatable cycle.
Following Inopportune: Stage One is Flying Carpet (2005), a Persian carpet aloft above the viewer, ambiguously pierced by 200 arrows. The work guides the visitor to the second major installation in the exhibition, Inopportune: Stage Two (2004), in which nine life-size tigers leap through the air, replicating the trajectory of the cars in the first installation. They, too, are stabbed by hundreds of arrows. In an instant that combines sublime beauty and intense horror, the feline beasts, in their death throes, evoke the artist's investigation into heroism and bravery.
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, covered with thousands of shards of porcelain statuettes of Buddhist goddess Bodhisattva Guanyin. The statuettes were produced in Dehua, a major ceramic production centre in the artist's native Fujian Province, China. "Cai Guo-Qiang's works juxtapose the traditional with the contemporary and the resulting installations are spectacular and deeply imbued with meaning," concludes Mr. Théberge.
The exhibition is organized by the National Gallery of Canada in collaboration with the MASS MoCA (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art) and curated by NGC Director Pierre Théberge, with the assistance of Mayo Graham, Director of National Outreach and International Relations, and Jonathan Shaughnessy, Assistant Curator Contemporary Art, at the NGC.
The two stages of Inopportune, as well as a video installation entitled Illusion (2004), also on view at Shawinigan Space, were first presented at the MASS MoCA in 2004. Flying Carpet was on view at MARta Herford, Herford Germany, in 2005 and currently on loan from the Museum. Reflection was first presented in 2004 at Freer & Sackler Galleries, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC.
A fully illustrated catalogue and a bilingual Bell audioguide complement this exhibition.
Shawinigan Space is part of La Cité de l'Énergie complex and is an exhibition venue of the National Gallery of Canada.