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Look Sharp: Taiwanese 'Nail Artist' Howard Chen Redefines Hammer Time


Taiwanese artist Howard Chen (Chen Chun-hao, or 陳浚豪), is an artist whose medium is nails. An average Chen work is made of several hundred thousand "mosquito nails", headless metal pins fired into white canvas using a nail gun.

Assembled into such large groupings, the nails act as both collage and coloration, imparting contrast and texture to create both new artworks and reproductions of older paintings from the classic Chinese tradition. Chen's next exhibition is being held in Shanghai this September.





The images displayed here are from Chen's 2011 homage to Fan Kuan's “Travelers Among Mountains and Streams,” originally painted in the year 1031 during China's Sung Dynasty. Chen's update required about 750,000 mosquito nails, each one 1.8cm (about 2/3”) in length.

The 39-year-old Chen's switch (in early 2010) from hand-applied thumbtacks to mosquito nails fired by nail guns has allowed him to become incredibly prolific.

Working for up to 10 hours a day in his studio, Chen estimates he has fired about 5 million nails through at least 25 nail guns, and in the process he's worn out two industrial air compressors. It's unknown how many of his neighbors have also been worn out by Chen's lengthy daily “hammer time.”

Viewed from a distance, Chen's homages in iron faithfully recreate the style and atmosphere of his models. It's only when one gets up close & personal that the individual nails can be resolved.

In this sense, Chen's not so different from 19th century French Impressionists or more precisely, French pointillist artist Georges Seurat. “When I started this, the nail gun was just a nail gun,” explained Chen, “and now it's turned into a brush.” (via Xinhuanet and Taipei Times)