Gu Gan, the Chinese painter and calligrapher, who became the first Chinese artist to have his painting printed on Bordeaux first growth Chateau Mouton Rothschild’s 1996 vintage has passed away on May 30.
Gu passed away due to an illness at the age of 78. The news was announced by China’s elite Peiwen School of Peking University.
Born in 1942 in Changsha, the capital of Hunan province, Gu attended art school in Beijing in the early 1960s. Removed from his job during the Cultural Revolution, he was forced to work as a labourer in the printing industry for ten years. The death of Mao and the fall of the Gang of Four in 1976 allowed him at last to return to his art. At the same time, he discovered with ardent interest the work of Kandinsky, Klee and Miró, then virtually unknown in China.
One of the promoters of the “Modern Calligraphy” exhibition held in Beijing in 1985, he soon became better known in the West, following visits to Germany in 1987 and 1989.
Gu is known for infusing colour to traditional Chinese calligraphy that traditionally centers on black and white composition. His works are typically multi-layered, with the title revealing the theme, and that thematic word or phrase becoming an integral part of the composition.
He experiments with the shapes and forms of Chinese characters to reinforce their meanings, sometimes blending multiple characters or separating them into component parts.
In his painting for Mouton 1996 vintage, Gu brought together in a single drawing five ideograms of the Chinese character ‘心’ or ‘heat’ in English, varying the color and stroke of each. This powerful yet subtle composition, which he has called “Coeur à Coeur” (Heart to Heart), is intended as an act of faith in universal harmony, according to the chateau.
His works are displayed in many museums both in China and the West, including the British Museum and the Museum for Far-Eastern Art in Cologne.
The other Chinese artist whose work was featured on a Mouton label is Xu Lei. His painting is on Mouton’s 2008 vintage.