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

Born: Beijing, 1975. Lives and works in Beijing.

After studying biomedical science and electronic engineering in the United States, polymath artist Bingyi earned a Ph.D in Art History and Archaeology from Yale in 2005 with a dissertation on the art of the Han Dynasty.  The almost childlike simplicity of her paintings belies the sophistication of the thinking behind them, and their rich literary and philosophical allusions. Six Accounts of a Floating Life (2008) was 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 intentionally contains only five panels; the sixth, perhaps, is an open-ended mystery. (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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