“Embroidery like this takes a lot of time and patience. Making the work was a real struggle, but it was also exciting and gave me lots of ideas.”
Born Baotou City, Inner Mongolia, 1986
Chinese embroidery was refined over the centuries to an exquisite art—one that Gao Rong grew up with. “My mother and grandmother made beautiful embroidery,” she says. “It was their hobby. Unfortunately this skill is no longer valued, so it is being lost.” Traditional embroiderers “painted” pictures of gods, animals, birds and flowers with fine thread. Gao Rong preserves and pays tribute to their skills while adding new dimensions—literally. Her works are embroidery as sculpture, every detail stitched on fabric wrapped around sponge that is stiffened by steel frames and wire. Instead of plum blossoms and phoenixes, she sews perfect replicas of things we see every day but seldom notice: peeling paint, rusty pipes, old appliances, cheap furniture, bus stop signs. Level 1/2, Unit 8, Building 5, Hua Jiadi, North Village (2010) re-creates the entrance of the cheap basement flat that Gao Rong rented when she was a student in Beijing. Station (2011) replicates with meticulous exactness the sign at a Beijing bus stop, complete with daily timetables and phone numbers scrawled by people with things to sell. And the artist’s masterpiece, The Static Eternity (2012), faithfully reproduces the interior of the tiny village home where her late grandparents lived for over 50 years and raised seven children. The house fell down after their deaths, but with the help of their neighbours and her extended family, Gao Rong recovered many of their belongings and reimagined the rest. Each piece takes months of work and countless thousands of stitches. For Gao Rong they are labours of love—quiet tributes to family, home, and the beauties hidden in ordinary, even ugly things.