Brisbane experiences

Cai Guo-Qiang in the coolest city in Australia

Cai Guo-Qiang is one of the biggest names in contemporary art. His new exhibition is running at Queensland Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) until the 11th May this year. You might say that this is entirely natural for Brisbane which has recently been declared 'the coolest city in Australia' according to Lonely Planet. 

Born in China, but now living in New York City, Guo-Qiang is a contemporary artist who you may not have heard of, although you may have seen some of his work. He was Director of Visual and Special Effects for the Beijing Olympics of 2008 - generally recognised as one of the most impressive opening ceremonies in the entire history of the event (yes, Sydney was good too). One of the most memorable parts of the ceremony was the 'bigfoot' footprints. They walked 200m through the air towards the stadium which then erupted in a firework extravaganza. See below: 

While we're at it, you're probably wondering about this 'coolest city' business. In December last year, Lonely Planet declared Brisbane to be the coolest city in the country. This is what they said: "Booming Brisbane is an energetic river town on the way up with an edgy arts scene, pumping nightlife and great coffee and restaurants," Lonely Planet says. "Sub-culture undercurrents run deep here with cool bookshops, globally-inspired restaurants and cafes, bars and band rooms aplenty." Thank you, That's not bad considering they are based in Melbourne. 

Lonely Planet would probably say that they may have their base in Melbourne, but they are citizens of the world, and indeed the whole of Australia. The company has come a long way since they started off in the early 70s as the result of the founders, Tony and Maureen Wheeler, writing a travel guide to Asia after they did the Hippy Trial from London to Australia. More recently, according to an article on another young couple are going to recreate that epic and now historic journey. 

Anyway, Cai Guo-Qiang was part of the '85 New Wave of young Chinese artists emboldened by the death of Mao Tse Tung in 1976. He is best known for his works with gunpowder, which he uses to create drawings on canvas as well as fireworks. More recently he has started working with model animals, such as Heritage 2013, which has 99 animals from around the world drinking from a pool. This installation is in the gallery. 

Gunpowder drawing 

Head On from 2006 is a very bold work indeed. It features 99 wolves flying through the air and crashing into a glass screen and then bouncing off and slinking away in the direction they've come (see at the top of this page). One final point: we feel it might be helpful to give you a little explanation regarding Guo-Qiang's use of gunpowder. According to one critic: "Gunpowder incarnates Qiang’s obsession with creation and destruction. In Chinese culture, gunpowder is both a substance for healing and combustion. For Cai, personally, it emblematizes Taoist concepts of yin and yang, male and female, birth and death, poetry and violence." Hope that's helpful. 

Falling Back to Earth costs $15 per adult ticket, with concessions available for students and members. The exhibition runs until 11 May 2014.

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