Cai Guo-Qiang | China b.1957 | Dragon or Rainbow Serpent: A myth glorified or feared (drawings) Project for extraterrestrials no. 26 1996 Spent gunpowder and Indian ink on Japanese paper | Nine drawings: 300 x 200cm (each) | Purchased 1996 | Collection: Queensland Art Gallery
Dragon or Rainbow Serpent: A myth glorified or feared (drawings)
Project for extraterrestrials no. 26 1996
In his practice, Cai Guo-Qiang often uses the symbolism of mythical worlds. He draws on the transformative visions of different worlds to confront cultural expectations.
His gunpowder work, Dragon or Rainbow Serpent: A myth glorified or feared (drawings) Project for extraterrestrials no. 26, was created for the 'Second Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art' in 1996.
Momentous in scale, this site-specific project embraced the celestial symbol of the Chinese Dragon, a divine and venerated creature associated with water in Chinese mythology. In this work, the Chinese dragon is linked with the rainbow serpent, one of a group of ancestral beings that hold spiritual knowledge and power in Australian Aboriginal mythology.
Cai pursues his transformations through fire and explosion. Fire, one of the elements believed to have formed the universe, represents the duality of creation and destruction. The artist is also inspired by the ancient science of geomancy which seeks the attainment of physical and spiritual harmony between a person and their environment.
For this work, Cai constructed a series of interrelated works, which included nine large gunpowder drawings and an extensive group of plans, maps, and test drawings. These drawings were produced in preparation for a planned (but unrealised) fireworks explosion, involving 18 000 metres of explosive fuse traversing the Brisbane River and its banks.