“Life, death, love, passion, beauty: these things don’t need words to explain.”

Born: Beijing, 1975. Lives and works in China and the United States.

To look at her works, one would never guess that Bingyi has a doctorate in art history and is a professor of visual arts (at the University of Buffalo, New York). The almost childlike simplicity of her paintings belies the sophistication of the thinking behind them. Six Accounts of a Floating Life (2008) is characteristic. Inspired by a memoir of the 18th century writer Shen Fu, it presents images of childhood, romantic love, tragedy, death, and life’s resurgence. The work contains allusions to fairy stories, war, the Chinese tradition of the wandering sage, and the dream of philosopher Chuang Tzu (Zhuangzi): “I didn’t know whether I had dreamed that I was a butterfly, or was a butterfly dreaming of being Chuang Tzu.” It pointedly contains only five panels; the sixth, perhaps, is for Time itself to paint. (The original memoir was also incomplete.) In I Watch Myself Dying (2009), Bingyi depicts herself as a pale pink sarcophagus on an operating table, watched by an alternate self with organs exposed and features distorted in agony. As in all her works, personal details are distilled into a few enigmatic signs, making the artist’s personal story a frame into which anyone can step.


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