Artist Chen Chun-hao, known as Howard Chen in the western world, uses a nail gun, an air compressor and millions of small nails to create incredible works of art.
Chen isn’t the only artist in the world using nails to create impressive artworks. Marcus Levine is perhaps the most famous nail-using person in the art world, but mosaic master Saimir Strati and Shannon Larratt have also experimented with the medium. But whereas the above mentioned artists hammered the nails into their canvases, Chen Chun-hao uses a nail gun, which allows him to use up to hundreds of thousands of mosquito nails (headless metal pins) for each of his masterpieces. He shoots them one by one into white canvases stretched over wooden boards, creating reproductions of traditional Chinese ink paintings.
But Chen Chun-hao hasn’t always worked with nails. He first started with another unusual medium, thumbtacks. For over a decade he used them to make all kinds of installations and sculptures, from billboard-size mosaics on the sides of buildings, to creepy little dolls and even an 8m-by-4m installation on an art gallery floor, made from 340,000 thumbtack all laid in the same direction so that they shimmered and waned as people walked by them. He says it was fate that he changed from thumbtacks to mosquito nails in 1998, but admits he’s been a lot more proficient since using a nail gun instead of his bare hands.
The 39-year-old artist spends up to 10 hours a day in his Guandu art studio, shooting thousands of nails into the canvas. Since January 2010 he has gone through 5 million nails, changed 25 nail guns and broken two air compressors. But considering one of his most recent works, a reproduction of Travelers Among Mountains and Streams, originally painted by Fan Kuan in 1031, is made up of roughly 750,000 mosquito nails, it’s no surprise his tools break down so often. He spent three and a half months working on this piece, trying to get the nails deeper into the canvas, hoping to nail the contrast with the white background.