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Article

Chinese, 20th – 21st century, male.

Active in Japan and the USA.

Born 8 December 1957, in Quanzhou City (Fujian Province).

Painter, draughtsman, mixed media, video artist, installation artist, performance artist.

Cai Guo-Qiang trained in stage design at the Shanghai drama institute from 1981 to 1985...

Article

Melissa Chiu

(b Quanzhou, Dec 8, 1957).

Chinese installation artist. Cai studied at the Shanghai Theatre Academy, completing his degree in stage design in 1985. He is best known for ephemeral, large-scale explosion-works using gunpowder—a medium he began to experiment with in China and often explained as a childhood reference to witnessing skirmishes between China and Taiwan along what was known as the Fujian Front.

In the 1980s, he applied gunpowder to canvas, which he then lit to create bold, charred designs. When Cai emigrated to Japan in 1986, he began to use gunpowder for environmental installations. Since 1989 he called these works Projects for Extraterrestrials. Cai believed that most explosions visible from space have been related to war, and that his work sends a non-violent message. A good example is The Horizon from the Pan Pacific: Project for Extraterrestrials No. 14 (1994), executed off the coast of Iwaki, a small town in Japan, where Cai installed a 5000-metre trail of gunpowder in the ocean that illuminated the horizon. The work evoked the experience of living in this small fishing village, where the ocean is a central part of everyday life. Such a conceptually charged, yet rudimentary application of gunpowder, characterizes Cai’s works created in Japan....

Article

Melissa Chiu

(b Shanghai, 1955; d Paris, Dec 13, 2000).

Chinese installation artist, active also in France. Chen studied at Shanghai Fine Arts and Craft School until 1973 and the Shanghai Drama Institute until 1978, where he majored in stage design. Following his graduation, he became a professor at both art schools. Chen’s most representative works from this period are a series of large, grey oil paintings entitled The Flow of Qi (Qi You Tu) (1985). These works endeavoured to represent the movement of qi, or spirit, a core element of life and the cosmos in Chinese philosophy. Although not radical in form, the work with its references to ancient and traditional Chinese philosophy was a provocative political gesture given that these ideas had been suppressed during the Cultural Revolution.

When Chen moved to Paris in 1986, he enrolled at the Institut des Hautes Études en Arts Plastiques, graduating in 1989. His installations throughout the 1990s, when he came to international prominence, nearly without exception included references to his Chinese heritage, including Daoist philosophy, Chinese domestic objects (chamber pots, furniture such as chairs and tables, Buddha statues, abaci), and traditional medicine. These references demonstrate a residual effect of his Chinese upbringing—he lived in China until he was 31—as well as a sense of displacement as an immigrant in France and an attempt to come to grips with being a contemporary artist living and working in the West, but not sharing that region’s culture, history and traditions. For Chen, the incorporation of Chinese references in his work were essential as a matter of defining who he was as an artist, while at the same time articulating the uniqueness of his experience....