Epoché 悬置 (Performance at Shenzhen Airport), 2014
b. 1975, lives and works in Beijing
An architectural designer, writer, curator, cultural critic, and social activist, Bingyi combines her interests in ecology, science, philosophy, history, and aesthetics into a multi-faceted artistic practice that encompasses land and environmental art, site-specific architectural installation, musical and literary composition, ink painting and performance art. She is perhaps best known for her large-scale ink paintings in which she collaborates, over months or years, with the environmental conditions of a specific site to capture a reality-scaled record of the climatic and topological forces shaping a natural or urban landscape. At the other end of her wide-ranging practice, Bingyi explores the microscopic origins of organic life in intimate, small-format paintings, in which her minute and meticulous brushwork paradoxically reveals a profoundly creative, gestural, and “calligraphically expressive” quality drawn from her daily calligraphy routine. Through her hypnotic, obsessive endurance and execution both painstaking and nuanced, one senses the loving power of nature itself as it crafts animate life from inanimate matter.
Born in Beijing in 1975, Bingyi pursued university-level studies in biomedical and electronic engineering in the United States. She graduated from Yale University with a Ph.D. in Art History and Archeology in 2005, writing a dissertation on the art of the Han Dynasty. She has exhibited internationally in Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Alicante, Alicante, Spain (2014), St. Johannes-Evangelist-Kirche, Berlin, Germany (2012), Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago, Chicago, USA (2010), Galerie Erna Hecey, Brussels, Belgium (2009), Contrasts Gallery, Shanghai, China (2009), and Max Protetch Gallery, New York, USA (2008). Her works have also been included in Surveyors, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, USA (2011), and Yipai, the Opening of the New Wing, Today Art Museum, Beijing, China (2009), and featured at The 7th Gwangju Biennale, Annual Report: A Year in Exhibitions, Gwangju, South Korea (2008).
In addition to producing an engrossing oeuvre of paintings, Bingyi is an accomplished installation and performance artist. In October, 2013, she occupied the center of Toronto’s city hall to create a 1,800 square meter ink painting over the course of a twelve-hour outdoor public performance entitled Metamorphosis: To the Non-earthlings. Less than three months later, she created Epoché, a huge public performance and installation commissioned by the Shenzhen Bao’an International Airport. Working with the conditions of suspension, gravity, land, and wind, she bombarded an airfield with 20-kilogram oil-and-ink “missiles”—500 kilograms of material in total—at different heights from a helicopter. The resultant monumental canvas, a record of the performance and event, was hung centrally in the airport for a month. Nicknamed Modan or “ink bomb,” the piece became an internet sensation.
In March, 2015, Ink Studio will present Bingyi’s solo show, Intensive/Extensive. Working with installation designer Bricks Li, she will create a two-floor immersive environment with her massive 2013 work Wanwu, the most recent in a series of land and weather works created at sacred mountain sites in China. In Wanwu, Bingyi uses the natural elements of wind, sun, humidity, air pressure, and terrain in combination with the traditional materials of ink and water on bespoke xuan paper to reveal the intensive forces driving the earth processes—both geological and the climatological—that shape our extensive world. In this way, Bingyi uses ink as “dark light” —carbon, an absolute absorber of light, in water, nature’s universal translucent solvent— to illuminate the usually invisible and transient physical processes that enable ordered patterns and forms to arise from chaos.
In Intensive/Extensive, Bingyi will exhibit for the first time works in the fan format from her encyclopedic series Fairies—a “catalogue” of the endless virtual forms assumed by organismic life. In the same space, Bingyi will create a wall-sized installation from Luminaries, a series of scenes from the lives of biotic organisms as if witnessed through the lens of a microscope, inspired by that artist’s poetic meditations on the origins of life. During Intensive/Extensive, Bingyi will stage an improvisational performance in Beijing whose site and date are to be announced.
Bingyi’s works can be found in the White Rabbit Contemporary Chinese Art Collection Sydney, Australia; and the collections, among others, of, the Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago, Chicago, USA; Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Alicante, Alicante, Spain; and Museum of Chinese Women and Children, Beijing, China. She has been the subject of three documentaries: The Enduring Passion for Ink—A Series on Contemporary Ink Painters: Bingyi’s Madness, on Bingyi’s process as an ink painter, filmed by Richard Widmer and directed by Britta Erickson; Shape of the Wind, on Bingyi’s land and weather art, and Epoché, on Bingyi’s Shenzhen airport performance/event, both filmed and edited by Richard Widmer.