“Embroidery like this takes a lot of time and patience. Making the work is a real struggle, but also exciting.”
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 used needle and fine thread to “paint” pictures of gods, animals, birds and flowers. Gao Rong preserves their skills while taking them into new dimensions. Her works convert embroidery into sculpture, with 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, street signs. Level 1/2, Unit 8, Building 5, Hua Jiadi, North Village (2010) recreates the entrance of the cheap basement flat Gao Rong rented as a student in Beijing. Station (2011) replicates the sign at a Beijing bus stop, complete with daily timetables and phone numbers scrawled by people with things to sell. And The Static Eternity (2012) summons up the interior of the tiny rural home where the artist’s grandparents lived for over 50 years and raised seven children. The house was levelled years ago, but she used belongings recovered from relatives, and her own memories, to recreate every fixture, from washing machine to chairs, door knobs and tea cups. The piece took months of toil and countless thousands of stitches. Like all her artworks, it is a labour of love—a quiet tribute to family, home, and the beauties in ordinary, even ugly things.