Painting with gunpowder

Cai Guo-Qiang celebrates the invention of gunpowder in an exclusive documentary.

By Google Arts & Culture

Act Six: Red Lilies (2018) by Photo by Tatsumi Masatoshi, courtesy Cai Studio

Invented in China around the 9th century, the birth of gunpowder was actually an accident. It was created inadvertently by Taoist alchemists while attempting to make an elixir of immortality.

Ignition of gunpowder painting Study of Birds (2018) by Photo by Tatsumi Masatoshi, courtesy Cai Studio

Cai Guo-Qiang began to experiment with gunpowder in his hometown of Quanzhou. Since then, the 1,000-year-old material has inspired him to create breathtaking pyrotechnic artworks around the world, including the ceremony for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Cai Guo-Qiang during the creation of Study of Birds (2018) by Photo by Ting Ting Chen, courtesy Cai Studio

For Once Upon a Try, Cai Guo-Qiang wanted to celebrate the invention of gunpowder and the influence it has had on his work by paying tribute to one of the greatest inventors of all time: Leonardo da Vinci, who was himself fascinated by gunpowder and even designed cannons.

Act Five: Spiritual Garden (2018) by Photo by Wen-You Cai, courtesy Cai Studio

We asked Cai Guo-Qiang to tell us about his artistic material of choice, gunpowder. From China to Italy, follow Cai Guo-Qiang in this exclusive documentary.

Cai Guo-Qiang and da Vinci: painting with Gunpowder #OnceUponaTry

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