Cai Guo-Qiang is celebrated for his “gunpowder drawings” in which different types and colours of gunpowder are ignited against a surface, creating ethereal and smoky images. Commissioned by the Museum of Fine Art Houston early this October, Cai Guo-Qiang executed Odyssey, the largest gunpowder drawing he has made to date, on a span of 42 panels totalling 10 by 162 feet. The partnership between the museum and Cai Guo-Qiang was made possible by the museum’s curator of Asian art, Christine Starkman.
Even though Cai has been working on this project since January, he was so inspired by a visit to the Museum of Fine Arts Houston where he viewed Chinese paintings and “browsed through an album of flowers” that he made significant changes to the original plans, adding lotus, peonies and a scholar’s rock.
Cai, who has been working with gunpowder since the Eighties, stated at the “Odyssey” ignition evening;
“Sometimes, as an artist, I fell like I have behind me other true artists who work. This true artist is the invisible energy and power. I both revere it as I try to control it. At the same time, I anticipate and look forward to the spontaneous effects that are out of control. This is what I am going through. it’s why I have been using gunpowder all these years and would never let it go”