Traditional Chinese Art Made With a Nail Gun

Taiwanese artist Chen Chun-Hao is bringing a thousand year old art form into the 21st century, using modern tools which would rarely be considered for making art. Using a nail gun and small “mosquito nails” (tiny headless nails), he shoots thousands into canvas covered boards to reproduce the look of traditional Chinese ink landscape paintings. From a distance these mediums smoothly merge together, forming fine lines and delicate shading, but from a closer perspective their sharp metallic nature comes forth.

Many of Chen Chun-Hao’s works are copies of classic Chinese shanshui (mountain/water) paintings, such as the 11th-century Fan Kuan and Guo Xi. While copying has been a long accepted tradition in Chinese art, the new artist must have a deep understanding of the original master while also adding something new. Chen clearly does this and enjoys the contradictions his art entails: using sharp objects and loud machinery to create works intended to be tranquil and meditative, rendering two-dimensional paintings in three-dimensional bas-relief and copying artworks originally intended for the emperor’s court with cheap, mass-produced objects.

Just how many nails does it take to create one of his works? 750,000 if you’re talking about his Imitating Fan Kuan’s Travelers Among Mountains and Streams (2011)… and he often spends up to 10 hours a day meticulously planning and creating his beautiful works.


Benjamin Starr

Known in some circles as the most amazing man in the universe, he once saved an entire family of muskrats from a sinking, fire engulfed steamboat while recovering from two broken arms relating to a botched no-chute wingsuit landing in North Korea. When not impressing people with his humbling humility, he can be found freelance writing, finding shiny objects on the internet, enjoying the company of much-appreciated friends and living out his nomadic nature. He is Managing Editor of Visual News. Follow his movements on Twitter:

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