Falling Back to Earth – Cai Guo-Qiang at GOMA, Brisbane – Part 1

Falling Back to Earth – Cai Guo-Qiang at GOMA, Brisbane – Part 1

Recently, City of Images visited the Falling Back to Earth exhibition at Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art which ran from November 2013 to May 2014. The City of Images galleries are for those who may have missed the exhibition, as well as anyone who wants to revisit it virtually.

The works are by Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang (pronounced tsai gwo-chang) and represent his first solo exhibition in Australia. He has previously exhibited as part of the Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art. On this occasion, with Falling Back to Earth, Cai offered four installations, Heritage, Eucalyptus, Tea Pavilion and Head On. The second gallery of images in this series includes selections from Eucalyptus, Tea Pavilion and Head On.

Heritage is an installation of 99 animals from around the globe gathered at a water hole. It’s a very impressive work, inspired by a trip Cai made to North Stradbroke Island. It’s about pristine environments and the notion of disappearing paradises as human occupation of the world becomes more threatening to many species and their surroundings. Every so often, a single drip of water from above interrupts the stillness of the water, suggesting questions about harmony and peace, diversity and understanding as both prey and predators meet at the water’s edge.

Eucalyptus is exactly what its title suggests: a giant eucalypus tree destined to be removed for an urban development, which has been retrieved and installed at the gallery. The tree represents life cycles, time, nature and change. According to the exhibition brochure, Cai was inspired to create this work after visiting Lamington National Park in the Gold Coast hinterland, ‘in particular after encountering the soaring Antarctic beeches, some of the oldest trees in the world.’

The Tea Pavilion was located in the River Room which faces the city, and offered a space to rest and reflect while enjoying a cup of Tie Guan Yin tea, the most famous variety of tea from Fujian in China, Cai’s home province. (By the way, you can obtain teas from Fujian if you visit Chinatown in Fortitude Valley and check out the Chinese supermarkets – lovely tins, too, for future tea keeping once the original is brewed and sipped).

Finally, there is Head On, a room full of 99 wolves taking off for the sky, sailing across open air and coming to a stop against a clear wall as they fall back to earth. The brochure tells us that this work originally appeared at the Deutsche Guggenheim in 2006, and was ‘inspired by Berlin’s turbulent history,’ including the erection of the Berlin Wall (referenced by the clear glass wall in the installation), and also indicative of sometimes invisible obstacles that we don’t even know await us on our journeys.

Cai Geo-Chiang was born in 1957 in Quanzhou, Fujian. He studied stage design at the Shanghai Theatre Academy and has lived in Japan and the United States of America. He has had many solo exhibitions and won numerous awards. He currently lives in New York.

This short summary hardly does justice to Cai’s exhibition, but the images posted here may offer a glimpse of what was on offer, and act as happy reminders for those who saw the real deal at GOMA. The information contained in this post is based on content from the exhibition brochure issued by QAGOMA.

The gallery with this post features images from the Heritage installation.

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