I did a trip to Manchester for family and to see Cornelia Parker’s exhibition at the Whitworth Gallery. What I didn’t expect to see there was another exhibition being shown for the first time outside of Japan.

Cai Guo-Qiang, Born in China but has his practice in New York.

He is known for his art works and projects using gunpowder, and he organised the Beijing Olympic firework display.

The work on show at the gallery was first commissioned by the Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art in 2008, and is the first time it has been shown outside of Japan.

‘Unmanned Nature’ is a 45 meter long 4 meter high gunpowder drawing.

This vast drawing looks as though it could have been done in ink or charcoal, but in fact it has been drawn with gunpowder, the scorches and burn marks mimick the ethereal effects of classic Chinese painting. Produced on Japanese hemp paper,he places the gunpowder and fuses in between layers of paper and card,then lights the fuse. Cai’s drawing is ‘made’ or ‘fixed’ in an instantaneous flash of light and heat and energy. It is a paradox that a scene of such serene stillness and calm is created by such violent means.

This is the largest gunpowder drawing by Cai and was completed in Hiroshima – one of two Japanese cities whose civilian population was massacred by the atomic bomb in 1945.This pieces of work is part of a body of work commissioned. HCMCA. The whole of this work is not to be associated to closely with the atomic bomb, but it is about people and their values; what are peoples responsibilities in relation to nature? “the problem of the atomic bomb is not the bomb itself, its people. Ultimately, ‘Unmanned Nature’ is about the problem of humanity”.

Seeing this along side Parkers work with lead bullets turned into beautiful stitching, and poisons into prints of butterflies really does hit home that its how we act as humans towards each other that needs to be addressed and not the inanimate object.

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