I recently visited the Mathaf aka the Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha Qatar for the incredibly spectacular Cai Guo Qiang exhibition. The museum is known for its collection of modern art for the region and regularly hosts artists from around the world, whether its art by Arab artists or those who may offer an Arab perspective on international modern and contemporary art.
The founder of the museum is H.E. Sheikh Hassan bin Mohamed bin Ali Al Thani whose mission was to build a collection that could serve artists and public as a rich and representative treasure-house of modern Arab art.
I was impressed by their commitment, collections and who has been inside their walls. Currently on exhibit until the end of May is world renowned Chinese artist Cia Guo Qiang. I was not familiar with his work before seeing his collection in Doha and was blown away by his technique and his results.
He’s known for his “gunpowder’ techniques. While living in Japan from 1986 to 1995, he explored the properties of gunpowder in his drawings, an inquiry that eventually led to his experimentation with explosives on a massive scale and to the development of his signature explosion events.
Drawing upon Eastern philosophy and contemporary social issues as a conceptual basis, these projects and events aim to establish an exchange between viewers and the larger universe around them, utilizing a site-specific approach to culture and history.
His work has been shown worldwide…Cai’s retrospective I Want to Believe showed at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York and his Peasant Da Vincis, opened in May 2010 as the inaugural exhibition of the Rockbund Art Museum in Shanghai. Cai also created Odyssey, a permanent gunpowder drawing for the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston in Fall 2010. Installed as part of the museum’s ongoing Portal Project, it is one of his largest gunpowder drawings to date.
Take a look at the intricate detail that he has been able to achieve. His miniature series includes eight gunpowder drawings especially for Doha. (not everything in this collection is specifically for this exhibition however0. Volunteers prepared and cut stencils and fabric samples. Gunpowder was then ignited directly onto the stencils and samples to transfer the designs to paper.
Inspired by Islamic miniature paintings and the embroidered trim on Qatari women’s abayas, the richly decorative designs in the series question the roles of ornament in art, creation in destruction, and the artist as the sole creator of an artwork.
The below are some of the paintings of women in a series that stretched across one wall.
More from the same technique, colors, style…
Gunpowder was exploded onto elaborately sculpted porcelain. This kind of porcelain, manufactured near the artist’s hometown, was historically traded by sea to the Arab world. The juxtaposition of gunpowder and porcelain suggests a fragility in human relationships, whether between individuals, nations or cultures.